GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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January 5, 2013

Gutted dog case: 'Cruelty element lacking'

Lawyer says pitbull died of heroin overdose

The lawyer of a Gloucester man accused of slicing open his pet pitbull to retrieve heroin from the dog’s stomach wants the case dismissed, pointing to insufficient evidence as the reason for dismissal.

John “Jack” Dugan, 28, of 139 Prospect St. was arraigned on a charge of animal abuse during a pretrial hearing in Gloucester District Court yesterday. His attorney, Thomas J. O’Shea, filed the motion for Judge Joseph Jennings to dismiss the case on the same day.

O’Shea argued that Massachusetts law defines animal cruelty as to “overload, overwork, torment, deprive of necessary sustenance, cruelly beat, mutilate or kill an animal.” O’Shea wrote that his client, Dugan, performed none of those acts in the Dec. 3 incident, saying the dog’s ingestion of heroin caused an overdose that killed her.

“This element is lacking in this case, where his dog accidentally ingested a substance, which resulted in (the dog’s) death. The cruelty element is lacking,” O’Shea wrote.

After Dugan was arrested, police say he told them he had cut his dog, Xena, after she had died from ingesting heroin that Dugan had left on his kitchen counter. Dugan said he had made the incision in order to release gasses that had caused Xena to bloat after her death, making it difficult to move her body, according to police report.

Though police did not believe Dugan’s explanation for gutting Xena, the police report said it seemed the dog had been gutted after she died from the overdose, not while she was still living. However, police have requested an autopsy of Xena, and are awaiting results.

Police consulted a veterinarian who called Dugan’s reasoning a “blatant lie,” saying gastric extension, or bloating, would be extremely unlikely in a death from an overdose.

Detective Steven Mizzoni wrote in his report that he believes Dugan had been packaging heroin for sale, and that he cut Xena open after her death because she had ingested a sealed package in addition to the open package that caused her overdose.

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