A man who claims he shot his terminally ill dog to end her suffering before burying her at the beach is facing animal cruelty charges.
Michael Whalen, a 65-year-old chiropractor from Virginia, told local media his dog Allie was suffering from Cushing’s disease and had suddenly started fitting when he decided to put her out of her misery.
When his vet mentioned putting 15-year-old Hungarian Vizsla Allie down in February 2016, Mr Whalen said he did not feel the time was right.
“Allie was not ready. I was not ready. She was still having fun. She wasn’t in ill health. I got her stable on her medication,” he told 13NewsNow.
He said he kept her pain under control with medicines he bought online and the pair enjoyed another year together.
But he claimed Allie suddenly began seizing uncontrollably in January this year.
“She was not coming out of this,” Mr Whalen told the station, adding that it was distressing to witness.
Mr Whalen said he did not take Allie to one of the area’s 24-hour animal hospitals because it could have been risky to drive the dog in the condition she was in.
“The options were to sit here and let her do this until she expired, or to put her in the car, which [would mean] I couldn’t control her and it would have been dangerous for me to drive trying to keep her airway open,” he said, adding that he considered what would be the fastest way to end the animal’s suffering.
He said he put Allie in a wheelbarrow and took her to the beach before sunrise.
“I had picked out a place for her,” he said. “She loved the ocean. She loved the beach.”
He chose a clearing in the sand dunes and was crying while he dug the hole, he said.
Police began investigating when Allie’s body was found by a passer-by, partially buried in a sand dune with her paw peeking out on 3 February.
His lawyer, George Yates, told the news programme his client was acting as any loving owner would in the same situation.
“We feel that he did what a pet owner is required to do,” Mr Yates said. “Take care of their animal and when their animal is suffering to properly euthanize the animal.”
Mr Whalen, who has no children and is separated from his wife, said he and Allie were inseparable.
“It was so emotionally disturbing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go through this in my mind and sometimes I’ll just start crying.
“We did everything together. She went everywhere with me. I even took her on a vacation trip one time on my motorcycle.
“This was a very sad and painful story, and I did nothing but help my dog leave this world.”
He has now been charged with one count of animal cruelty and one count of unlawful waste disposal. The penalty for a first offence in the state can be a fine of between $220-1,000 or a prison sentence of between 6 months and a year.
Mr Whalen said he was not aware it was illegal to bury a pet on the beach. The charge of animal cruelty refers to a section of state law on depriving an animal of “emergency veterinary treatment”, according to his lawyer.
A court hearing has been set for 26 June.