WAYNESBURG – In an unusual turn of events Thursday prior to a scheduled preliminary hearing, charges against a Spraggs man who allegedly dragged two Labrador retrievers behind his vehicle July 25 in Wayne Township were reduced.
William Wilkinson, 59, accepted an agreement between his attorney, Kevin Freyder, and Assistant District Attorney Linda Chambers, which allows Wilkinson, a disabled veteran, to continue to possess a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Chambers hesitated when Freyder asked for a reduction in charges.
Freyder said, “Mr. Wilkinson does not want to relinquish his concealed carry permit. We are trying to avoid any issue with it. He is a disabled veteran, and it is his only way to defend himself.”
Chambers then agreed to charge Wilkinson with two third-degree misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct for creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition to the dogs and a summary offense of cruelty to animals. She included the special conditions that Wilkinson not be permitted to own a dog for a period of two years and he relinquish ownership of the two Labradors.
Wilkinson was arrested by Southwest Regional Police July 27, two days after police responded to a report of a man dragging two dogs on Dewey Avenue. Officer John Lingo located the dogs laying on a concrete pad at the water pump station on Calico Run Road.
Lingo said there was a gash above the male dog’s left eye, one on top of its head, and cuts all over it.
“His fur was matted up very badly,” Lingo said in a criminal complaint filed before Greene County Magisterial District Judge Glenn Bates. “He still had a rope around his neck.”
The second dog, a female, also had a gash on top of its head and a rope around its neck, according to Lingo.
Lingo interviewed Wilkinson, who told him the dogs got out of his yard while he was away 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 was only traveling at 2 mph. He said he stopped the vehicle and had to give the female dog mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
The dogs were initially taken to Cheat Lake Animal Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., for treatment through the assistance of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Lingo. On Tuesday, PETA Director Martin Mersereau urged the district attorney’s office to prosecute Wilkinson “vigorously,” and if he was convicted, “ensuring that his sentence includes a ban on owning or harboring animals.”
A witness to the dragging, Charles Medved, told Lingo he went to stop the vehicle. He told Lingo the female dog was not breathing. Medved said the rope was so tight around the necks of both dogs, he needed a knife to cut it loose. According to the complaint, Medved told Lingo he couldn’t get his fingers under the rope. Medved confirmed Wilkinson began to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation because the female dog stopped breathing. When the dog began to breathe again, Wilkinson said he was going to take the dogs home. Medved then told him the dogs were not going anywhere until the police arrive, according to the complaint.
On Thursday, Wilkinson was deemed eligible for consideration to participate in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for first-time offenders. ARD participants must serve at least one-year probation and pay all fines and costs. Those who successfully complete the program can petition the court to have their record expunged.
It was also made part of the record that Animal Friends of Pittsburgh waived the cost of treating and caring for the dogs that were placed in its care.
The agreement was approved by Bates, who was scheduled to conduct the preliminary hearing.