Authorities in Utah have arrested a 40-year-old man after he allegedly stole his ex-girlfriend's family dog and set the animal on fire.
Michael Paul Busico, 40, was booked into Tooele County Jail on Tuesday on charges of torture of a companion animal, criminal trespass, theft and arson, according to online jail records.
The Salt Lake County Animal Services reported on Monday night that police received a call about a dog had been set on fire near the town Magna.
Upon arrival, officers found the animal — identified as a female red tick heeler — wandering in a brush with burns to her face and body. Animal service officials said that the brush had also caught on fire.
The dog was transported to a local veterinary hospital, where workers determined that the animal had suffered second-degree and third-degree burns to her head, pelvis, hind end, belly and mouth.
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A person who witnessed the incident told police that the suspect was a man with a shaved head who drove a green Toyota Tacoma truck, animal service officials said.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, police received a report of a stolen dog earlier that day. The dog's owner reportedly told investigators that the suspect was with her dog when she left the house and both were missing when she returned home.
In an affidavit obtained by the Deseret News, police said the woman told investigators that she believed her ex, Busico, stole her family's pet "in retaliation to their failing relationship."
The affidavit said that the dog's family contacted police after they "saw their dog on the news and recognized her from the pictures" and the reported description of the suspect matched Busico and his vehicle.
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"Through investigation, it was found that [Busico] was in a dispute with the mother of the victim over $1,200 dollars and a past relationship that had ended," the affidavit said. "Mr. Busico specifically targeted his ex-girlfriend's daughter's dog."
"From my training and experience, I believe that Mr. Busico was targeting the victim's animal to directly intimidate and threaten her and his ex-girlfriend," an officer reportedly wrote in the affidavit.
In the affidavit, police said that Busico attempted to run away when officers approached him at a relative's house, but he was caught about 100 yards later, according to the Deseret News.
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It's unclear if Busico has obtained an attorney who can speak on his behalf.
In an update released on Tuesday, the Salt Lake County Animal Services said that the dog, who remains in critical condition, has been reunited with her owner.
"The dog's outcome remains uncertain at this time," animal service officials said in a statement. "She is currently on fluids and pain medication."
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