Labradors doing well, were not returned to owner

August 27, 2014
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This male Labrador sustained a gash above the eye and another gash on top of its head after being dragged behind a vehicle wih a rope tied around its neck.
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This female Labrador also sustained gashes and had to be resuscitated when it stopped breathing after being dragged behind a vehicle with a rope tied around its neck.

The two Labrador retrievers injured last month when their owner allegedly dragged them behind his vehicle after tying rope around their necks are “doing well at an undisclosed location,” a spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Wednesday.

The dogs’ owner, William Wilkinson, 59, of Spraggs, was charged by Southwest Regional police with two counts of animal cruelty. Wilkinson is scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 3 p.m. today before District Judge Glenn Bates.

Police responded to a call July 25 for a report of a man dragging dogs on a road in Wayne Township. Southwest Regional police Officer John Lingo eventually found the two dogs at the water pump station.

The officer approached the dogs and noticed a gash above the male dog’s left eye and another gash on top of his head.

“There were cuts all over the male dog, and the fur was matted up very badly,” Lingo said. The rope was still around the dog’s neck, he said.

The female dog had a gash on top of her head, and the rope was around her neck, too, he said.

Lingo said he then interviewed Wilkinson, owner of the dogs, who told him the dogs got out of his yard while he was at a medical appointment. He said he got in his vehicle to try to find them and, when he did, he could not find anyone to help him.

“So, he tied a big piece of rope around each of the dogs and tied it to the hitch of his vehicle and pulled them,” Lingo said. Wilkinson reportedly told the officer he stopped the vehicle and had to give the female dog mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He said he was traveling only 2 mph.

Stephanie Bell, cruelty caseworker director with PETA, said her organization was contacted 24 hours after the incident, and she said “working from afar” at PETA headquarters in Washington state, the organization was able, with the help of Lingo, to get the dogs to Cheat Lake Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., for treatment.

She also said that at PETA’s expense, the organization arranged for the dogs’ boarding before securing temporary housing with a local rescue organization, where they are now.

“I can tell you the dogs are doing well and are out of Greene County. They were not returned to the owner, and I doubt if the alleged perpetrator knows where they are,” she said.

On Tuesday, PETA requested that Greene County District Attorney Marjorie Fox prosecute Wilkinson “vigorously.”

“To have allegedly dragged these dogs behind a moving vehicle is horrifically cruel,” said PETA Director Martin Mersereau. “Too often, people who are convicted of crimes against animals walk out of court with a slap on the wrist. We urge Ms. Fox to prevent other animals from suffering at this man’s hands by ensuring that his sentence, if he is convicted, includes a ban on owning or harboring animals.”

If Wilkinson is convicted, PETA – whose motto says, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way” – is asking that his rights to the confiscated dogs be permanently revoked, that any animals in his custody be removed, and that he be prohibited from owning or harboring animals for as long as possible.

“Even if this alleged act wasn’t committed maliciously, surely more animals would likely fall prey to what can be characterized only as a stunning lack of judgment. Please know that we would be happy to assist with finding permanent placement for both dogs,” said Melissa Lewis of PETA’s cruelty investigations department, who wrote the letter to Fox.

Jon Stevens was the Observer-Reporter’s Greene County bureau chief. During his 41 years with the O-R, he covered county government, courts and politics, and won statewide and regional writing awards.

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