FAIRFIELD – A 4-year-old mixed-breed dog that police say was abused by her owner died Friday afternoon at a nearby veterinary office.
The dog, Bella, was being treated for severe hypothermia and heat exhaustion as well as cuts on her body after being dragged down Norridgewock Road in extreme heat Sunday afternoon.
Paul Smith, a veterinarian at Kennebec Veterinary Service in Oakland, said Bella was near death when she was brought into the clinic by police officers Sunday.
He said that she likely suffered heat stroke, the effects of which may not show up immediately but can worsen over several days. In Bella’s case, she suffered irreversible kidney and liver damage, said Smith.
Bella’s owner, James L. Wiggins, 43, of Fairfield, has been charged with cruelty to animals and is scheduled to appear in Skowhegan District Court on Sept. 11.
Fairfield Police Chief Tom Gould said the department had at least six phone calls on Sunday reporting an apparently intoxicated man was dragging a dog that appeared to be badly injured.
One call came from 24-year-old Chris Hartsock of Fairfield, who was driving on Norridgewock Road and pulled over when he saw Wiggins and the dog.
He said the dog could barely walk. “My first thought was that she had been hit by a car, so I pulled over to ask if she was OK.”
Hartsock said Wiggins told him the dog was fine and asked him what his problem was. He said Wiggins told him he was walking from The Big Apple convenience store to his house, a distance of about five miles, and that he hadn’t given the dog any water.
As Wiggins and the dog continued down the road, Hartsock said he saw a truck pull over to give Wiggins a ride. He said Wiggins picked the dog up by the leash and put it in the cab.
Hartsock, who was driving with his girlfriend, Cathryn Squires, followed the truck to Wiggins’ house and called police. He said he had hoped to adopt Bella from the Waterville Humane Society when she was better.
Gould said it was fortunate that a number of people were concerned enough about the dog to call police.
Smith said that despite her suffering, Bella was in good spirits during the week.
“We are all pretty devastated. Hopefully she is in a better place,” he said.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368