A dog who was dubbed the 'unicorn puppy' because of a tail-like growth between his eyes will remain with the founder of a Missouri rescue group, despite more than 300 offers to adopt him.
The beagle-mix puppy, named Narwhal the Little Magical Furry Unicorn, was rescued in November by Mac's Mission in southeast Missouri.
He drew international attention when his picture hit social media, prompting all the adoption offers - but also some negative attention, including death threats, said Rochelle Steffen, founder of the Mac's Mission in Jackson.
Those two factors - plus the dog's winning personality - convinced Ms Steffen to reverse an earlier decision to find a new home for Narwhal, she told The Southeast Missourian.
She said her tiny rescue could not properly vet the 300 adoption applicants and she was concerned by "stupid, ugly comments [online] about this sweet little puppy."
People have shown up at the rescue in Jackson because of the dog, prompting security measures and meetings "by appointment only," Steffen said. Narwhal is watched at all times by Ms Steffen and trusted volunteers.
Ms Steffen said she wanted to keep the dog safe and was concerned he could be exploited by someone without his best interests at heart.
"If somebody is going to make money off of him, I would love to see it go toward the rescue, and save thousands more dogs," Steffen said.
People have made "giant" offers to buy him, Ms Steffen said. "But he's not for sale."
And the dog's cute personality made it difficult to consider giving him to someone else, she said.
"It's not just a decision from me," she said. "The whole rescue cannot fathom him leaving. We all fell in love with him."
Mac's Mission is currently involved in a court case involving the sale of a previously adopted dog, which taught Ms Steffen that the organisation loses control over an animal's fate once it is adopted.
And the mission's former treasurer, Elizabeth Hann, is awaiting trial on charges that she stole $US120,000 ($NZ183,000) from the organisation, which specialises in caring for animals with special needs.
"We have had a rough couple of years here," Ms Steffen said of Mac's Mission. "Lots of loss, lots of hurt."
And Mac, the mission's current "spokesdog", turns nine years old in January. Ms Steffen said she wasn't sure what was going to happen until Narwhal came along, saying he is "absolutely, exactly what we needed."
She said the dog will be a spokesdog for a "different is awesome" campaign and the long-term plan is to train him as a therapy dog.
For now, Ms Steffen is concentrating on letting him grow, and getting him fully vaccinated and socialised.