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'I didn't know the dog was at the back of the ute': cruelty accused

Accused 'traumatised' after dog-dragging incident

A 35 year old Wickham man appeared at Karratha Magistrates court today charged with cruelty to an animal and contravening a learner's permit.

Johnathon Wayne Smith pleaded guilty to contravening his learner's permit, but not guilty to the ill treatment of an animal.

It was alleged Mr Smith dragged the dog, named Hercules, behind a vehicle through the streets of Wickham on September 30 for approximately 5kms, reaching speeds of up to 60-70kmph, leaving the canine with burns to more than 20 per cent of his body.

It is alleged after the incident occurred he took the dog to the beach and placed him in the sea water to help, then covering it in tea tree oil in an attempt to treat the injuries.

The dog was taken to Karratha Vet Hospital by the Roebourne police after they responded to reports of the incident.

It is believed the dog belonged to Mr Smith's foster brother and he is likely to say the incident was an accident when he returns to court for his trial allocation date on January 21.

Outside the court, Mr Smith said the incident haunted him as he loved the dog and it was an accident which occurred as he didn't know Hercules had been chained to the tow ball of the vehicle.

He said he had helped to look after Hercules since he was a puppy and would never do anything to deliberately hurt him and he had taken Hercules to the beach hoping the saltwater would help stop the bleeding.

"I have a lot of love, time and care for that dog…I would harm myself before I'd harm that dog," Mr Smith said.

"I know I stuffed up 'cos I was on my learners and didn't look around my car and didn't use my mirrors…but I didn't know the dog was at the back of the ute…I am still to this day trying to find out who attached him to the car.

"As I drove off a bloke walked across the road..he just stood there and laughed, didn't say nothing and just watched me go up the road…I didn't know the dog was in the back…if he had just sung out and said something, this wouldn't have happened."

Mr Smith said the incident had left him traumatised and he didn't want to live in town anymore because of threats and comments made on Facebook, adding people he had known for many years were now "giving him the cold shoulder" and saying he was "cruel".

He has been released on bail, during which time he cannot be in charge of, or transport any animal.

The maximum penalty Mr Smith could face under the Animal Welfare Act 2002 is a $50,000 dollar fine with up to five years imprisonment.

Hercules is due to remain in Karratha Vet Hospital over the next couple of months while he recovers. He has continued to show signs of improvement, according to vets treating him.