Every dog has his day, and Champ finally is going to have a nice one. As a result, thousands of dog lovers can breathe a bit easier; the 18-month-old German shepherd mix won't be going home to Kevin Deschene, the owner who beat him and stomped him.

Champ's plight became known after Jim Molloy, 31, Deschene's next-door neighbor in Lowell, Mass., took a series of photographs in November of Deschene savagely abusing the dog. The pictures helped convict Deschene, 19, of animal cruelty, for which he was sentenced to six months in jail and fined $500 (PEOPLE, April 30).

But Deschene's family, insisting that Kevin had done no wrong, promised a court battle to regain custody of the dog from the Lowell Humane Society. Outraged animal lovers, all with a higher opinion of the dog than of Kevin, rebelled, deluging the Humane Society with 3,700 letters and submitting petitions bearing 21,000 signatures demanding that Champ be protected. Hundreds of the letter writers—some of them offering to pay long-distance shipping charges—wanted to adopt Champ themselves (see Mail, page 4).

Allan Davidson, executive director of the Lowell Humane Society, showed up for a May 4 hearing in Lowell District Court with the letters and petitions—but without Champ. "I put the dog in a safe house, sort of a witness protection program," Davidson said. "I would have faced contempt charges rather than turn the dog over."

As it turned out, Davidson's precautions were unnecessary. At the last minute, the Deschenes decided not to contest custody of Champ. The family, it seemed, had more pressing legal matters to attend to. On the day of the hearing, Barbara Deschene, Kevin's mother, was arrested for alleged welfare fraud, and his sister Kim, 22, was charged with intimidating witness Molloy by shouting obscenities and throwing eggs at his home.

In the meantime, Davidson has picked out a new home for Champ, about 30 miles from Lowell. Since the dog still harbors ill will toward men, Davidson says he will be living in "a female-only household, where there are four cats, some horses, another dog and 18 acres of land."

Kevin, now serving his time in a less hospitable environment—the Middlesex House of Correction in Billerica, Mass.—will not be as fortunate.