A Medford man who police say tossed a Chihuahua puppy 15 feet into the air, breaking its two front legs and causing internal bleeding and brain trauma, was arrested Wednesday on a charge of first-degree aggravated animal abuse.
Medford police arrested Christopher Lee Lewis, 29, of the 1900 block of Pepper Street, Medford. He was lodged in the Jackson County Jail, but has since been released because of overcrowding.
One of the dog's owners, 24-year-old Joshua Prince, first contacted police Wednesday to tell them a housemate had injured the dog on Sunday. Lewis had been living there for about two months. All family members took care of the dog, but it was a gift given to Prince's niece.
The 2-month-old puppy, named Whiskey, had urinated in the house, and Prince gave it to Lewis to take outside. Police said Lewis took the dog to the home's rear sliding door and threw it into the backyard. Family members said it sounded like he kicked it.
"We heard the noise of, like, a football being kicked," Prince said. "It made your stomach turn."
It was apparent the dog was seriously injured that night. The other residents of the house confronted Lewis about what he had done. He admitted it and eventually left.
"(The family) monitored the dog that night," said Lt. Mike Budreau. "He was obviously injured. His pupils were dilated. He couldn't walk, and he continued to cry."
The dog also shook from uncontrollable tremors. The family took it to All Creatures Animal Hospital in Eagle Point the next day. Veterinarians confirmed two broken legs, brain trauma, internal bleeding and possible neck and jaw injuries.
"That guy literally ruined this dog's life," Prince said.
Police later found Lewis, who did not return to the house on the family's request, near the intersection of Jackson and North Front streets and arrested him.
"He did provide a statement and was apologetic for what he did," Budreau said, adding Lewis alleged the incident was an accident. "We think it was an intentional act. We believe he was angry at the time."
Whiskey is healing, his owners say. He has two tiny casts on his front legs and has pins to help the bones set. He must continue to be monitored to see whether infection has set in on the injuries. He has to eat soft food to prevent redislocating his jaw.
"He did have some neck injuries, but he's doing a little bit better," Prince said.
Whiskey, named because of his initial happy nature, is now skittish and afraid and has a more reserved energy level, Prince said.
"He's not the same," he said.
The case is under review by the Jackson County District Attorney's Office.
Aggravated animal abuse is a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $125,000 in fines.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.