Charges filed in pit bull cruelty case; Sarge on road to adoption

Charges have been filed in the case of Sarge the pit bull, Ivins, Utah, Aug. 18, 2014 | Photo by Betsy Kolb, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – The Washington County Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday that charges have been filed in an animal cruelty case that occurred in August, when an injured pit bull was found close to death near Highway 91, west of Ivins.

James Robert Sumner, of Santa Clara, has been charged with obstruction of justice, a class A misdemeanor, and cruelty to animals, a class B misdemeanor, for allegedly stabbing the pit bull and leaving it for dead. Early reports suggested the pit bull had been shot with an arrow, but it has since been confirmed the animal was stabbed in the stomach.

Sumner will be summoned to face charges in 5th District Court, according to a press release from the Washington County Attorney’s Office. His arraignment date will be set by the court, according to the press release. Senior Deputy Washington County Attorney Brian Filter has been assigned to prosecute the case.

“The charges facing Mr. Sumner are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,” the press release said.

Though rumors have abounded during the case, particularly within the animal advocacy community, Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap said he cannot confirm rumored details about the case or release further information about Sumner at this time.

“I can’t comment on it until it becomes a matter of public record,” Belnap said.

“Anything like that will have to come out through the course of the case,” he added.

The injured pit bull, originally named “Remy” by his rescuers – short for Remington, because it was at first believed the dog had been shot by a gun – was renamed “Sarge” in honor of the Washington County Sheriff’s deputy who found and helped rescue him.

Sarge was found abandoned in the desert, about a 20-minute drive west of Ivins, on Aug. 15. Sgt. Kurt Bowen, of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, discovered the dog in the early morning hours and called in Ivins Animal Control Officer Aggie Smith for assistance in transporting the pit bull. Bowen performed triage, wrapped the dog and stayed with him until Smith arrived.

In an interview after the dog was found, Smith said she normally transports animals in the back of her animal control vehicle, but Sarge was so loving and gentle, even with such severe injuries, that she allowed him to ride up front with her, and the dog spent a portion of the ride with his head resting on her shoulder until he got too tired to keep sitting that way.

Smith said she’s witnessed many things during her years as an animal control officer, but never anything as severe as Sarge’s injuries.

“I’ve been doing this for nine years and I’ve seen a lot of stuff,” Smith said, getting emotional as she spoke, “but (nothing) that bad.”

Sarge was taken to Red Hills Animal Hospital in St. George, where he underwent a three-hour surgery to address the wound that had gone all the way up to his stomach, nicked his intestines in two or three places and injured the outer area of his pancreas. The wound had also blown out the area underneath the dog’s stomach, Smith said, pushing out the interior fat. She said that ultimately saved Sarge’s life, because the fat staunched the bleeding; he would likely have bled out otherwise.

Sarge has since recovered fully from his injuries and the resulting surgery and has been given a clean bill of health by the veterinarian.

“Sarge is doing well, and he doesn’t have any lasting effects from the attack at all,” Linda Elwell, president of Friends of Ivins Animal Shelter, said.

Friends of Ivins Animal Shelter has been coordinating support efforts and care for Sarge since he was found.

Sarge was housed in a foster home following his surgery but is currently staying at the Ivins Animal Shelter. Elwell said he will soon be transferred out of the area to another facility where he can be adopted. Though Sarge is very gentle and affectionate with humans, it has yet to be determined whether he will get along with other animals in an adoptive home, she said, so he is being evaluated regarding that.

All expenses associated with Sarge’s medical care have been paid through community donations.

It was originally reported that the Washington County Sheriff’s Office had offered to pay the dog’s veterinarian bills. Elwell said she later spoke with Sheriff Cory Pulsipher and it was agreed that if enough donations didn’t come in from the community, the Sheriff’s Office would help pay the balance. But so many community donations came in that it wasn’t necessary. In fact, there was enough surplus money left over from the donations that, after Sarge’s medical bills had been satisfied, Friends of Ivins Animal Shelter was able to set up an emergency medical fund in Sarge’s name with the remaining money. “Sarge’s Abuse Fund,” or SAF, will be used to help other abused animals like Sarge, Elwell said.

“It’s a permanent fund,” Elwell said, “and if anybody wants to donate to that, (the money) will only be used in animal abuse cases for medical care.”

Anyone wishing to contribute to Sarge’s Abuse Fund can send donations to:

Friends of Ivins Animal Shelter
661 E. 425 South
Ivins, Utah 84738

“Just mark on your check ‘SAF’ and it go will directly into that account,” Elwell said.

During the investigation into Sarge’s injuries and abandonment, the Humane Society of Utah and the Humane Society of the United States each offered $5,000 rewards for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible – a total of $10,000 in reward money. Elwell said she’s not sure if anyone has made a claim to the reward money or whether the offered rewards were instrumental in leading to the charges filed against Sumner.

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  • Hmmmmm.... September 23, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Let boys off the hook for assaulting a girl but go after the guy who shot a dog. What does that say about the community value placement of girls versus dogs?

    • Cali Girl September 24, 2014 at 8:08 am


    • citizen x September 24, 2014 at 10:14 am

      Or killing a child. prosecution … WT…*?
      Ed. ellipsis: …*

    • Herd September 24, 2014 at 6:24 pm

      The end of the story is with lack of community support the girl and her family feels compelled to leave and make home somewhere else for support was for the male attackers over the girl. The same community embraces the dog to find it a home and demand penalizing the male attacker. Pretty messed up if you ask me.

  • Real Life September 23, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    Wait a minute. Why so short on the d bag who did this? Usual everyday people, who get busted have their name and info, with pics as well, plastered all over the web page. Glad the dog is okay, but the original owner took WAY more heat than the dirt bag who shot the dog and left it for dead in the middle of the desert.

    • Cami Cox Jim September 23, 2014 at 10:32 pm

      As the story says, very little information about this man is being released by the County Attorney’s Office at this point. But we intend to follow the case as court proceedings start. The man has not been arrested, hence no booking photo.

      • real life September 24, 2014 at 8:24 am

        Sorry Cami, you are right. Just a little angry like a lot of others.

  • Zonkerb September 23, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    I hope that sorry.. P. O. S goes for a walk and falls and dies a slow agonizing death and rots in hell

    • Cali Girl September 24, 2014 at 8:09 am

      Ed. ellipsis: …*

  • groanattack September 23, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    The SCUM that walk amongst us!

  • The Rest Of The Story September 24, 2014 at 1:35 am

    I support a recall election to remove Brock Belnap from the office of Washington County Attorney.

  • Sugar September 24, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Now Zonkerb, don’t sugar coat it, tell us how you really feel!

  • sagemoon September 24, 2014 at 10:47 am

    It’s good to hear Sarge is doing well.

  • Just Me September 24, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Ha, I know EXACTLY who he is.

    And I can’t say I’m all that surprised.

  • Bobber September 24, 2014 at 11:22 am

    It really is strange how dogs and cats are valued more than people around here. If y’all are so in love with them, go up to the pound and get two or three or a dozen and bring them home. There’s plenty to go around…

    • Koolaid September 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      If people would quit having so many puppies, these unworthy lost dogs wouldn’t be abandoned on their own in the country, hauled to the pound, shot somewhere in the desert or end up on some chinese menu (wok ur dog). Despite how much yo love your dog, go visit your spay and neuter clinic and quit having so many puppies!

    • sagemoon September 24, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      I think people’s hearts break when they hear about cruelty to animals or babies left in car seats because they are defenseless. I am an animal lover and enjoy bashing the abusers. Did you know this guy is on probation for drinking a couple of beers before getting in a car with his son? He got a sweet deal. The court records don’t say how old his son is, but the son gets my sympathy, too. I do agree that teenage girls around here are “fair game” and get the short end of the stick in cases of violence, baby making, and general slavery to the mores of the community.

  • Markus September 24, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    what happened to the pregnant smoker on welfare that tried to keep this dog in am apartment?

    • Just Me September 24, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      LMAO Where are you getting your information from?! Pregnant? Yes she is. Trying VERY hard to quit smoking? Yep, that too! On welfare? Did you seriously just make that last part up for shock value?

      Seriously… we have the article here with the NAME of the sicko that actually harmed the dog, and you want to talk about the previous owner who was the ONLY person who came forward with ANY useable information to help CATCH the guy?

      This is why I hate people. Gimme a cat. At least they pretend to like you for food.

  • Bobber September 24, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    If y’all wanna see some animal cruelty that is normal and routine day to day, go take a tour of a pork slaughter house. Not pretty to look at, but I still enjoy my bacon.

    • Koolaid September 26, 2014 at 8:41 am

      Want to see cruelty to animals, go to Hurricane or Cedar where guys do inappropriate things to their pets and livestock

  • Disappointed October 3, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    I can’t believe I know him. I am disappointed in his actions. I am so glad that dog is ok. I do have to say I am not surprised about it at all.

    • TO THE PERSON WHO KNOWS IT ALL October 17, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      You do not know this person at all. This person went out and fought for our rights to have a free country.

  • TRUE STORY October 17, 2014 at 9:12 am

    People need to know the whole story about this dog. This dog has attacked other people and animals. I scene one person’s arm in what this dog did and it left a hole in this person’s arm and this person was a family member of his. The dog also tried to kill another animal and did serious damage. The animal control REFUSED to take the dog to put it down. The owner of the dog was trying to protect the people and other animals and did not have the funds to go to the vetinarian hospital so he did what he thought was best. SO IT’S WRONG TO PROTECT PEOPLE, FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS FROM AN ANIMAL THAT IS GETTING VENDICTIVE AND HARMING OTHERS. I BLAME THE ANIMAL CONTROL PEOPLE IN THIS SITUATION.

    • Dana October 17, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      I call BS on your little rant. How was stabbing then abandoning the dog an act of protecting anyone? The so called owner needs to grow a pair, man up and take responsibility for his actions. Don’t try to shift blame to animal control.

  • TRUE STORY October 26, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Dogs have no conscious, they go after whomever, and they are animals not humans. The only mistake he made was stabbing the dog and has confessed. Where is your morality for the animals not humans? Maybe you child or yourself needs to be bitten by the dog to wake up to reality.

  • the jackle November 24, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Looks like … ( James Sumner) might just get away with this crime, …. Just to tell you how … of person mr sumner is,… this guy just keeps getting away with stuff. And just to spite his attourney and him are trying to get the charges dropped and have the animal put down.
    Ed. ellipses.

  • Ed. Ellipses. December 2, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Be careful of what you say . . . Karma bites . . .

    • Joyce Kuzmanic December 2, 2014 at 7:58 pm

      HAHAHA EE 😀 Definitely made this editor laugh. HAHHAHA
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief – still laughing, love our commenters.

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