By Marjorie Nesin
---- — A Gloucester District Court judge this morning set a pretrial hearing for May 3 in the case against John "Jack" Dugan, the 27-year-old Gloucester man accused of gutting his pet pit bull in what police are calling an attempt to remove heroin from the dog's innards.
Many people close to the case, including Dugan's lawyer John Morris, had expected the case to be moved forward to Salem Superior Court as a result of the status hearing that was scheduled today.
But, to the dismay of about a half dozen protesters who stood in front of the court from about 9 a.m. to the time Dugan left the court about 11 a.m., Judge Joseph Jennings took no further action on the charge of animal cruelty except to continue it to May 3 and add the pretrial hearing for that date as well. Dugan is yet to enter a formal plea, or face a grand jury indictment in the case that has captured the interest of animal rights activists around the country.
Outside the courhouse, the protesters waved signs with printed images of the pit bull Xena and messages memorializing the dog, greeting passersby and watching as Dugan entered the court, having been bailed from jail mid-January upon meeting the terms of a $20,000 cash bail.
Dugan had been arrested in December after police found Xena's disembowled body discarded in brush near a Sadler Street fence that separates Sadler Street from the wooded area by the Route 128 extension, according to a police report. Police said Dugan, in a December police interview, admitted to cutting Xena open after the dog ingested heroin that had been left on a table in his home.
While police believe Dugan cut open the dog to retrieve a sealed bag of heroin that the dog had also ingested, Dugan had told police he cut Xena open in order to relieve bloating so he could discard of her body.
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Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.