ST. GEORGE — A dog has been reunited with its owner after it was found dozens of miles away from home in a rural area of Washington County with a gunshot wound to its face. Police say they are taking the case seriously and investigating it as a possible instance of animal cruelty.
The young female black Labrador was found bleeding on the side of the road in Pintura Sept. 2 and was brought to Southwest Animal Emergency clinic in St. George for treatment.
The dog suffered a fractured jaw as a result of being shot with what appears to have been a .22-caliber rifle. An employee at the clinic, Liana Cooper, secured a surgical operation to remove bone and bullet fragments from the dog’s jaw. She also went about looking for the dog’s owner by knocking on doors and sharing photos on social media.
Cooper said a previous St. George News article about the dog helped reunite her with her owner. The owner’s sister saw the story shared on Facebook and quickly recognized the Lab as her brother’s lost dog.
The dog had reportedly run away from the man’s Cedar City residence and wasn’t seen again until an unidentified Good Samaritan found her injured in Washington County.
“She was super excited to see him. She rolled over on her side and wagged her tail,” Cooper said of the dog’s reaction when she was reunited with the owner Monday, adding that the owner was pretty excited as well. “You could tell he was kind of emotional about it.”
Cooper said the man was extremely gracious and paid for all outstanding medical bills above what hadn’t already been covered by gracious community members donating to the clinic and an online fund drive.
“He’s a super good guy,” Cooper said of the owner. “You can tell he’s really good for her.”
Cooper said the owner had no idea how the dog, named “Jocee,” ended up all the way in another county or how she got shot.
Washington County Sheriff’s Sgt. Nate Abbott told St. George News that police are investigating the incident.
“We absolutely investigate these kinds of things, and this one specifically, to find what the cause was and who’s responsible.”
“Somebody’s done this to the dog,” Abbott said, explaining that the Sheriff’s Office has often dealt with unfortunate situations involving dogs being shot at for recreation or owners dumping unwanted animals in unincorporated areas of the county.
When responding to animal incidents, Abbott said the Sheriff’s Office is often limited in what it can do with injured animals because the county doesn’t have its own animal control facility. In this particular case, deputies offered a spot for the dog at the animal shelter in LaVerkin, but she wasn’t in stable enough condition to leave the clinic at the time the incident was reported.
“We’ve been lucky that there are some great resources here in the county and neighboring counties that are more than willing and have been very helpful in taking care of these animals,” Abbott said.
Deputies took a report about the injured dog, and the Sheriff’s Office has opened an investigation into the incident.
“We absolutely would treat it as animal cruelty or something along those lines once we’re able to determine the type of injury,” Abbott said. “We are looking into that. We don’t have any specific leads at this point based on the information we’ve received.
“With the help of the media and word of mouth, sometimes there are reports that come in that help us get to the bottom of it.”
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