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Deputy charged in death of former service dog

A former Genesee County Sheriff’s deputy has been charged with torturing and killing his dog, which came from a Livingston County-based agency.

According to a Facebook video from Genesee County Sheriff Christopher Swanson, Jacob Wilkinson was arraigned Tuesday in Saginaw County Circuit Court on one count of second-degree animal torture/killing in the death of a dog that had been part of the Blue Star service program in Pinckney that helps train dogs for use as service animals by military veterans.

Wilkinson, who previously worked for the Michigan Department of Corrections, faces up to seven years in prison, according to Swanson, who said the former deputy had only been with the sheriff’s office 42 days when he was fired because of the charges.

“This isn’t the first time that we’ve held our staff here accountable. It’s not the first time that we’ve arrested our own,” Swanson said in the video. “I’ve been elected as the sheriff to hold this office accountable to the people and I’m gonna continue to do that.”

Authorities in Saginaw County began investigating after road crews found a dog’s remains in Tittabawasee Township. Swanson said that a necropsy determined the dog, named Habs, had been shot three times. Reports indicate the dog had been shot in the head, while its legs and muzzle were duct-taped.

Habs – Facebook

A microchip led to an address in Saginaw and Wilkinson, who told investigators he bound the dog with duct tape after a nail-trimming incident in September or October last year.

“That dog nipped at him and he tortured it and he killed it and he left it for dead.”

Wilkinson, who reportedly adopted the animal after working to train it through MDOC in Saginaw County, never disclosed the incident to county officials when applying for his job last year or undergoing a psychological evaluation.

Swanson said that after Saginaw County Animal Care & Control director Bonnie Kanicki alerted him about the probe, he allowed Wilkinson to be questioned and that he confessed to the crime, at which point he was immediately terminated from his position.

Swanson called it a “horrific, horrendous murder,” that belied the fact Wilkinson had served in the National Guard, was a combat veteran and studied psychology at Saginaw Valley State University.

Blue Star Service Service Dogs, meanwhile, released a statement about the death of Habs, saying they were “saddened and outraged about what has happened to one of our dog cadets that wasn’t able to complete service dog training.”

The statement when on to say they were “thankful to have helped the Saginaw County Animal Control officers and investors in finding the responsible party in the expectation that he will be met with the justice he deserves with a heavy legal punishment. Our hearts are broken.”

Wilkinson, who was ordered not to possess firearms or animals, was released on a $10,000 bond. A hearing is scheduled for May 9.

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