Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19956
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Drugs or alcohol involved
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Tuesday, Dec 4, 2012

County: Essex

Disposition: Alleged

Alleged: John Dugan

Case Updates: 2 update(s) available

The discovery of a dead blue nose pitbull found disemboweled on Dec. 4 behind a commercial building at the end of the Sadler Street extension has led to the arrest of a Gloucester man who police said cut open his dead dog in order to retrieve heroin.

Gloucester police on Dec. 5 arrested the dog's owner, John "Jack" Dugan, 26, of 139 Prospect St., on an animal cruelty charge after they said he admitted to cutting open his 1 and ½ year-old female pitbull Xena and discarding her body behind PMS Manufactured Products, Inc. at 30 Sadler St.

On Dec. 4, a citizen called police to report the grisly discovery. Gloucester police launched the criminal investigation along with state officials that led to the arrest of Dugan, who police said admitted to snorting heroin in his apartment Dec. 3 and then leaving a quantity of the narcotic on a counter as he stepped out.

When he returned home, Dugan told police Xena started acting funny, collapsed on the floor and died, according to the report. Dugan told police the dead dog's belly started filling up with gases and that he had to "gut" it in order to fit her into a black duffel bag.

Security camera footage later confirmed two males, one of which had a duffel bag and was later identified as Dugan, walking along Sadler Street around 12:50 a.m. the morning of Dec. 4.

Later in their investigation, Gloucester police said they determined that after finding in Dugan's apartment an electronic scale for weighing narcotics and hundreds of "plastic sandwich baggies" used to pack narcotics that Dugan had been "packaging heroin for sale."

"Dugan cut open his own dog in order to retrieve the packaged heroin which would have been inside the dog's body cavity," according to the police report filed by Detective Steven Mizzoni.

The police report said an official at an animal hospital discounted Dugan's claim the dog had a gas buildup.

Police also reported this isn't Dugan's first charge of animal cruelty. In the prior incident, a former girlfriend of Dugan's reported he broke her dog's leg in a "fit of rage."

Dugan also owns a male pitbull, Damian, who police turned over to the city's animal control officer.

MSPCA-Angell, a private, nonprofit organization that aims to protect animals, confirmed to the Cape Ann Beacon Dec. 6 it is working with Gloucester police on the matter.

Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello called this an "isolated" incident and said that his department has not received any other similar incidents of such potential animal cruelty in the city.

"We don't anticipate some sort of trend," the chief said.


Case Updates

A Superior Court judge has dismissed two of the four animal cruelty counts leveled against the Gloucester man accused of cutting open his pet pit bull to retrieve heroin that the dog had ingested last December.

John "Jack" Dugan's defense attorney, John Morris, had moved for a judge to dismiss all of the four charges against Dugan, and Salem Superior Court Judge David Lowy -- after hearing arguments from both sides -- dismissed two of the cruelty counts, while keeping two other counts of animal cruelty and a charge of heroin possession in play.

The judge made the decision outside of the courtroom and is scheduled to review the status of the remaining charges in the case at a hearing Friday morning.

The Friday hearing was scheduled weeks ago.

"The judge can rule at any time," District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Carrie Kimball Monahan explained Wednesday. "He's just got to rule before the next date because that determines what's next."

The two counts were both dismissed without prejudice, which means the prosecution could re-indict Dugan on those two counts, but Monahan said she does not know if that approach is planned.

The four animal cruelty counts leveled against Dugan pertained to separate acts allegedly committed against his pet pit bull Xena.

Dugan, 27, was first arrested on a single count of animal cruelty in December, after police found the remains of Xena, disemboweled and disposed of in the woods off Sadler Street.

Dugan admitted to police at the time that he had sliced the dog open after it had ingested heroin, according to police reports. He said he made the slice to relieve bloating, though police then said they believed he opened the dog to remove heroin.

Meanwhile, a woman identified in police reports as Dugan's "ex-girlfriend" had told officers that Dugan would frequently hit both dogs for poor behavior and had watched Xena nearly choke to death on exercise equipment a week prior to the dog's death.

Prosecutors added three counts of animal cruelty and the heroin charge when Dugan's case moved from Gloucester's District Court to the higher Superior Court level.

It was not immediately clear Wednesday which incidents the dismissed counts were tied to.

Excluding a period this winter when Dugan met bail terms, he has remained in Middleton Jail since his early December 2012 arrest.

If convicted on an animal cruelty charge, Dugan could face a state prison sentence of no more than five years, or a term in a house of correction for not more than 21/2 years. He could also face a fine of up to $2,500 on each count, or a combination of fine and jail time.

The charge of possession with intent to distribute carries a potential sentence of 10 years or fewer in jail or 21/2 years in a house of correction. That term can also be combined with a fine of anywhere between $1,000 and $10,000.
Source: Gloucester Times - Oct 10, 2013
Update posted on Oct 10, 2013 - 12:11AM 
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.

"There is no logical explanation for the dog to have been surgically sliced open and her entrails removed if not for attempting to locate something inside her " heroin," Mizzoni wrote in the report.

Dugan's attorney, O'Shea, told Judge Jennings that Dugan has been taking a serious look at his drug use, and that Dugan's family was in court supporting him.

Dugan, after the hearing Friday, returned to Middleton Jail where he has been since his Dec. 6 arrest. Dugan's bail is set at $20,000 and must be paid in cash. The bail rate takes into consideration factors including the potential punishment and past charges.

According to past police reports, Dugan was arrested on an animal cruelty charge in 2007 after breaking the legs of a girlfriend's dog "in a fit of rage." He was also charged with marijuana possession in 2009 after police serving him with a restraining order found more than an ounce of pot and $1,900 in cash in his apartment, according to police.

If found guilty, Dugan would face up to five years in a state prison, up to 21/2 years in a house of correction, a fine no higher than $2,500, or a combination of a fine and jail time. He would also be banished from pet ownership.

Police removed another pitbull, a male named Damian, from Dugan's home immediately after Dugan's arrest. The dog has since been adopted, according to police.

A witness who identified herself as Dugan's ex-girlfriend told police Dugan used to "punch" the dogs in the head and body when he would become upset by their behavior, according to the police report. The witness also told police that weeks ago Dugan had grown angry at Xena when the dog tangled herself in exercise equipment and had allowed Xena to choke to the point of becoming unresponsive, her tongue hanging out of her mouth, before reviving her.

A check of city records shows that Dugan also owned another dog at one point, a black Labrador retriever also named Xena, but that dog was not found during the investigation, police said. The black lab has not been licensed since 2009, but had visited the veterinarian between July 2011 and July 2012, according to a list submitted to the city on July 24, 2012.

Neither Xena the pitbull nor Damian were licensed, and neither dog had visited an area veterinarian for rabies shots in the past year, according to city records.

Dugan is slated to return to court on Jan. 18, when Judge Jennings will decide on the status of that case.
Source: Gloucester Times - Jan 5, 2013
Update posted on Oct 10, 2013 - 12:09AM 

References

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