Remember the heartbreaking story of Andra Grace, the young pit bull who was cruelly dragged behind a pickup truck for two miles in late October 2013?
If you do, you probably also remember the petition that over 2,700 Care2 readers signed, demanding that South Carolina authorities upgrade the charges against the man accused of that gut wrenching crime from a misdemeanor to a felony.
We have some very good news for those of you following this case. Those charges were indeed upgraded and the accused, Roger Dennis Owens, was convicted on July 15. He’ll be spending the next 10 and a half years in prison for what he did.
Watch footage from the hearing in this news report:
In his court appearance, Owens told Circuit Judge Letitia Verdin that he intended to “plead guilty to my charges and get it behind me.” He added that he’d recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Owens revealed a bombshell during his testimony — someone paid him off with drugs and alcohol to take Andra Grace and get rid of her.
Judge: “One of the Cruelest Things That I‘ve Seen Since I‘ve Been on the Bench”
Reportedly, neighbors next to the property where Andra Grace was living had complained that she kept coming around to beg for food. The dog’s owners, who apparently were not caring for her or other animals in any real way, got tired of the complaints and asked Owens to do them a favor.
Owens agreed to get Andra Grace out of there. Inexplicably, instead of turning her in to a shelter, he decided to take care of the problem by tying the the poor helpless dog to his pickup truck and driving away.
Contrary to reports issued at the time of the offense, courtroom testimony revealed that Owens didn’t just tie Andra Grace’s leash to the bumper. It was much worse than that. He reportedly tied her front legs to his truck, forcing her to attempt keep up with his speeding truck by running on her hind legs.
He dragged Andra Grace for about two miles that way, according to authorities. Two women driving in the opposite direction saw what was happening, called the police, and turned around to follow the truck and save the dog.
The dog’s injuries were so severe that initial responders didn’t think she’d survive. She lost most of her rear toenails, the tendons in her knees were exposed, and her paws were “degloved.” Her belly and mammary glands were also torn up.
Donations from generous people around the world paid for the medical care Andra Grace needed to pull through. At the time of this incident, Andra Grace had recently given birth to a litter of puppies which had been given away at too young an age. Rescue workers tracked down the surviving puppies and re-homed them with families who will care for them properly.
According to Owens’ attorney, he does in fact like animals, but that fateful day he’d been drinking and wasn’t “thinking straight.” Uh huh. Sure. The judge didn’t buy it for a minute. She was appalled. You can see it in her face in the news video above.
“This is one of the cruelest things that I’ve seen since I’ve been on the bench,” said Judge Verdin. She then handed down the sentence, which demonstrated she was serious as a heart attack.
She sentenced Owens to five years for felony “ill treatment of an animal,” the maximum sentence available under South Carolina law. She also gave him five years for being a habitual traffic offender and six months for driving under the influence on a suspended license, bringing his total sentence to 10 and a half years. Owens showed no remorse, according to a reporter for WYFF.
The prosecutor, Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins, said he hopes Owens’ sentence will send a message that animal abuse will not be tolerated in his jurisdiction.
Finally, A Happy Life in a House Full of Love
Andra Grace lives in Florida now with her new adoptive parent, Lynne Dixon, and her family. When Dixon heard the news about Owens’ conviction, she became emotional.
“[Andra Grace] was in her bed and I knelt down. And I was already bawling. And I just climbed into her bed with her and scooped her up and squeezed her,” Dixon told WSAV.
Andra Grace has healed up nicely, though some of her fur is gone and will never grow back. She’ll always bear scars — both physical and emotional — from her horrific ordeal. Don’t worry about her, though, Care2 readers. She’s safe and loved. Her abuser is in jail with a felony conviction forever on his record.
Your signatures helped bring justice for Andra Grace. Without the angry public outcry that demanded a more serious charge for this offense, Owens would be spending decidedly fewer years behind bars. You helped make a real difference for this dog.
This is a victory across the board. Relish it — it doesn’t happen as often as it should.
Photo credit: Justice for Andra Grace Facebook page