GREENVILLE, S.C. (USA TODAY) — A South Carolina man received the state's maximum penalty for animal cruelty after being found guilty of dragging a dog behind his truck for 2 miles.
Circuit Judge Letitia Verdin sentenced Roger Dennis Owens of Greenville to five years in prison Tuesday for ill treatment of animals. Owens also received another 5 1/2 years for habitual traffic offenses.
Prosecutors told the judge that Owens dragged a pit bull mix behind his truck for at least 2 miles in Marietta on Nov. 29 and kept going after witnesses tried to get him to stop.
"This is one of the cruelest things that I've seen since I've been on the bench," Verdin said.
Witnesses reported seeing the dog tied to an open truck bed with her front paws on the gate while her hind legs were dragged across the road, said Assistant Solicitor Julie Anders. The dog was running, trying to keep up with the truck, which was being driven at a high rate of speed, Anders said.
Two witnesses pursued Owens, following a trail of blood on the road until they found the dog, abandoned, with severe injuries. Anders said.
The dog, now named Andra Grace, was taken to a veterinary clinic wrapped in bloody blankets, her bones and tendons exposed, Cynthia Sarachino told the judge. She is an animal rescue volunteer who was at the clinic when the dog was brought in.
"She was and is an innocent, good and gentle creature that did not deserve this heinous act," Sarachino said.
A fundraiser was held to help pay for the dog's medical treatment. More than $16,000 was donated. She has since been adopted.
Owens' attorney, public defender Elizabeth Powers Price, said her client has cared for dogs his whole life but had been drinking that November day.
"He was not in his right mind," Price said. "He has a drinking problem."
She told the judge that Owens, an auto mechanic, panicked after realizing what had happened and left the dog on the road.
Verdin had little sympathy for the defendant.
"About the best defense you can put up about what you did on that day was that you were driving drunk," she said. "It's just horrible."