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.
- Humane Society offers $5,000 reward in pit bull shooting case
- Former owner of pit bull shot with arrow comes forward, assists Sheriff’s Office
- ‘Sarge’ update: pit bull shot with arrow recovering in new foster home
- Pit bull found shot by arrow in desert near Ivins, left for dead
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