‘A Horrible Thing’

Judge Ups Ante in Dog Abuse Plea Deal

Huskey Gets Probation, Restitution; Banned from Dog Ownership

Billy Ray Huskey (second from left) and his defense attorney Robert Bruce stand before Judge Brian Gibbons Monday with Kathy Faulk of Hoof & Paw and prosecutor Melissa Heimbaugh. (Photo/Barbara Ball)

Billy Ray Huskey (second from left) and his defense attorney Robert Bruce stand before Judge Brian Gibbons Monday with Kathy Faulk of Hoof & Paw and prosecutor Melissa Heimbaugh. (Photo/Barbara Ball)

WINNSBORO (July 14, 2016) – The 9-month old dog who was severely injured as the result of being dragged for more than a mile behind a pickup truck by his owner last Dec. 13 had his day in court Monday.

Charged with a felony for ill treatment to animals when he was arrested on Jan. 30, the dog’s former owner, Billy Ray Huskey, 48, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, a misdemeanor of ill treatment to animals, which was agreed to by Assistant Sixth Circuit Solicitor Melissa Heimbaugh. Heimbaugh told the Court she felt the state would not win the felony case against Huskey with the available evidence.

As part of Huskey’s plea agreement, Heimbaugh recommended a sentence of up to 90 days suspended jail time, a two-year probation, $2,000 in restitution to Fairfield Animal Hospital where the dog was treated for its injuries and 30 hours of community service to be served at the Fairfield Animal Shelter in Winnsboro.

But Sixth Circuit Judge Brian Gibbons overrode that recommendation with a stiffer sentence for what he called “a horrible thing.”

In addition to Heimbaugh’s recommendations, Gibbons also imposed three years of probation instead of two, instructed Huskey, as a condition of his probation and to take the one dog he still owned to the veterinarian to be spayed and for a wellness checkup, all at Huskey’s expense.

Gibbons then told Huskey, “And you can never own a dog again.”

Before imposing the sentence, Judge Gibbons told Huskey, “The State (solicitor) is right, they would have had a high burden to prove your guilt. We have no evidence of intent, so I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt, which I have to do under the law. I know you would probably take this back if you could, and you have no prior (criminal history), so I’d be inclined to go along with the state’s recommendation, except for two things: One, I want to sentence you to the maximum jail time that I can under the guidelines; and two, I’m going to give you not two years of probation but three.”

“I’m disappointed that Mr. Huskey got so little punishment for his egregious actions,” said Laura Collins, one of the four horseback riders who rescued the injured dog and who was also one of the dog’s 50 or so supporters in the courtroom. But like others in attendance on Monday, Collins championed Gibbons for handing down a stiffer sentence than Heimbaugh had agreed to.

Heimbaugh handed the judge two graphic photos of the dog’s injuries, on behalf of the Hoof and Paw Benevolent Society, before she described the injuries to the court:

“. . . the dog’s bone and muscle tissue were exposed on multiple legs and on the dog’s trunk, back and feet. There were lacerations on both knees, with torn muscles and tendons. He was malnourished and dehydrated. His treatments were also extensive: surgeries on both back legs, treatment of open wounds for months and treatment for malnourishment and parasites.”

In addition to dragging and dumping the almost lifeless dog in the woods, Heimbaugh said Huskey also left two more of his dogs, both of which were “severely malnourished and diseased to the point that they were emaciated, and one of them died of starvation the next day.”

“You know, I see a lot of bad things in this job, holding court all over the state,” Gibbons said, addressing both the defendant and the courtroom and referencing one of his recent cases in which a mother shot her two young children. “I think I’ve seen it all, and then I walk in to this.”

After the horseback riders rescued the dragged dog and brought him to the Fairfield Animal Hospital, veterinarian Dr. Robert Knight described the dog’s injuries as only a few hours old and indicative of having been dragged behind a vehicle. The Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office initially told The Voice that there was no evidence that a crime had been committed. In the meantime, the Hoof and Paw Benevolent Society and a number of citizens in the Fairfield and Blythewood communities took up the dog’s cause and began collecting donations for its medical bills. They also raised more than $1,500 in reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person who might have dragged the dog. They also began distributing reward flyers.

In late January, those flyers bore fruit as several witnesses came forward and identified Huskey as their neighbor and as the man they saw dragging the dog behind his white pickup truck about six weeks earlier.

According to witness accounts, Huskey was seen dragging the dog behind his pickup truck beginning on the street where he lives, Forest Lake Circle in Mitford, and continuing to Miles Road, more than a mile away.

Upon his Jan. 30 arrest, Huskey gave the following written statement of the dragging, which occurred on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015.

“. . . I put the dog on a lead and put him in the back of my truck. I was going to take the dog to the pound. I was driving down the road and my neighbor came up behind me flashing his lights and I stopped. He told me the dog jumped out and I was dragging it. I got out of the truck and picked the dog up and the dog was not moving and it did not look like it was breathing. I laid it back in the truck and took it over to some land across from Carolina Adventure World. I placed the dog in a hole and covered it with leaves and sticks. I also left two other dogs out on the property. I then drove back home.”

“When we found the dog,” Collins told The Voice, “he was just lying there, kind of hidden under a small scrub bush, motionless, bloody and hardly able to raise his head. He was not in a hole and was not covered with sticks and leaves. And he could not have moved because he had no pads on his paws, his feet were raw and bloody, his toe nails were torn off and at least one of his legs appeared to be broken. There are so many unanswered questions. What ‘pound’ was Mr. Huskey taking the dogs to on a Sunday? Why were no charges brought for dumping those poor sick dogs? Isn’t that against the law? Why, when the judge asked the solicitor and the defense attorney where in the truck were the dogs tethered, both said they did not know?”

Huskey’s attorney, Robert Bruce, defended Huskey’s actions in court, saying that the dogs were not starved but had worms and that twice Huskey had bought medicine but that it did not resolve the worm problem so he was taking them to the pound. However, no documentation was presented in this regard.

After hearing from Heimbaugh and Huskey’s attorney, Judge Gibbons recognized Kathy Faulk, the Community Outreach Liaison for Hoof and Paw, and allowed her to make a statement on the dogs’ behalf (see sidebar). He also asked the group to stand and thanked them for their concern and dedication to the cause of animal welfare.

After months of surgeries, treatment and rehabilitation at Fairfield Animal Hospital, the dragged dog has been adopted and, according to vet tech Susan Knight, is living the good life on a farm in Fairfield County. The other surviving dog is still under the care of the animal hospital and has several prospects for adoption.

The Voice obtained information for this story from the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office through a Freedom of Information Act. More information and documentation is expected from the County Animal Shelter.

 

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