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Accused Alton Puppy Dragger Speaks Out: "I'm Really Hurt Here... I Miss Her. I Love Her"

michael thomas mug image.jpg
Michael Thomas says he's innocent.
The biggest local dog news this week is the story of a three-month-old puppy that witnesses say was dragged for many blocks like a stuffed animal until she was nearly unconscious.

But Michael Thomas, the 38-year-old Alton, Illinois, resident charged with animal cruelty, says the whole thing was blown way out of proportion -- and says he just wants his puppy back.

"I'm really hurt here," Thomas tells Daily RFT. "I miss her. I love her."

What's his side of the story?

As we reported yesterday, Thomas was arrested after passersby called police and told them that the man was dragging the small puppy down the street for blocks and didn't stop even when they asked him to.

He was charged with a misdemeanor count of animal cruelty and the local volunteer group Hope Animal Rescues took in the injured pup (who rescuers say is now recovering in foster care and will be up for adoption).

The case got a lot of attention in part because Thomas reportedly had told police that his veterinarian told him to train the puppy to walk by dragging it.

puppy alton 1.jpg
Courtesy Hope Rescues
The three-month-old puppy.

Thomas, however, tells us this is an exaggeration -- and that his actions did not come close to what has been described in news reports.

"I didn't drag the puppy," he says. "We were battling for a minute. She didn't want to walk.... I tugged."

Thomas, who says he is legally blind, tells us he had the puppy for about eight weeks, but has owned other dogs in the past. He says her name is Haylie, though Hope Animal Rescues says they've changed the labrador's name to Harper.

"Everybody is screaming at me and hollering at me that I was mistreating my dog, but I wasn't," Thomas says. "It didn't make sense."

He admits that he was trying to get her to walk and that she wasn't initially cooperative, but argues that there was no cruelty. And it was just a few blocks that they had even traveled, he argues.

"Even if I did drag her, I didn't drag her that far," he says, refuting reports that it was seven or eight blocks.

Continue for more of our interview with Michael Thomas and for more photos.

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53 comments
ThatsMyTattooo
ThatsMyTattooo

I've never flagged anyone. I believe in free speech, so I say leave the idiotic comments up. It's the internet version of a white sheet and pointy hat with a swastika armband. It makes them easy to identify, so that we may know them by their shame as the ignorant they are. Similar to a www.DunceCap. If only they would declare their hatred with such obvious fashion choices openly, on a daily basis. They only say it here because they can. Cowards. Rand Paul is publicly bigoted - I prefer authentic, even if it is total garbage. 

Regressive people will only get a net result of 0%. Regression, by it's very definition means backwards. 


ChrisKimball
ChrisKimball

Chain that fucking nigger to my truck, we'll go for a little joy-ride. Animals owning animals is never a good idea, especially when the owning animal is a nigger...

Sarah Penrod
Sarah Penrod

Can anybody provide evidence to back up the claim that the dog was abused? Article says she's "recovering." Recovering from what? Did she sustain injuries? What were the nature of these injuries? Can you get a veterinarian to corroborate the claim that she "almost died"? I need something to go on here other than "someone said they saw" and you might ask for it, too, before you decide this guy needs to be euthanized.

kellyanabelly
kellyanabelly

While the rest of you argue over who to talk to and what should be done about this I will oogle over the cute fluffy puppy!!!

Joe Tittiger
Joe Tittiger

I think a legal system that protects the "rights" of animals is doomed to going down a very slippery slope.

Rhonda Johnston
Rhonda Johnston

Hell no not til they drag him behind the car ! Eye for an eye!!

Julie Anzek Orr
Julie Anzek Orr

This guy should be dragged behind a car and see how it feels!!! Lock him up!!!

hoperescues
hoperescues

Hey reporters....PLEASE GO GET A COPY OF THE POLICE REPORT...His story today is much different than the one he told the day he was arrested. 

He signed his dog over to Animal Control..Hope rescued the dog from there just like they do LOTS of dogs at animal control.

Kraig Harms
Kraig Harms

I hope someone will drag him by the leash until he's half dead! Moron!

Jennifer Ickes
Jennifer Ickes

You've got to be kidding me. The dog is recovering. Obviously he did enough damage for there to be something to recover from. If he can't see that he clearly can't be responsible for a pet.

Angi-la Red Cloud
Angi-la Red Cloud

i was just trying to clarify for the people who thought this was another case of a puppy being dragged behind a vehicle. all people involved in cases of animal cruelty should be banned from owning animals

Allison Boring
Allison Boring

Waste of flesh! Sue, there is a list...However, even when the convicted are added to it who is going to keep them from owning again? I mean look at Vick. http://www.pet-abuse.com/

Brian BDub Wallace Sr.
Brian BDub Wallace Sr.

Hell naw! Some needs to drag his ass across the concrete and get skinned up like he did the puppy! Just an ignorant bastard!

Angi-la Red Cloud
Angi-la Red Cloud

pretty sure the article indicates that he was dragging it with a leash while walking. whether by hand or behind a car, neither are excusable

Brittney Dugger
Brittney Dugger

No - he needs to be euthanized like he nearly did to that poor puppy. Sicko!

Sue Stepanek
Sue Stepanek

there should be a animal abuser list like sex offender list...and once convicted of animal abuse you can not have a pet again.

ThatsMyTattooo
ThatsMyTattooo

Ok folks, let's look at this at all angles. I'm an animal advocate and have volunteered and sheltered dogs off & on for years. If this man is legally blind, he NEEDS a service dog. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt, return his dog to him, give him FREE puppy training classes at Petco or wherever & weekly visits from a proff trainer (like family services would do if this was a child). There are TONS of AWESOME dog trainers in Stl, I recommend Casey Ray. Perhaps this little cutie could be trained as a service dog for him. I often wish there was as much outrage over child abuse as there was animal abuse. I've seen people dragging kids down the road, and most turned a blind eye to it. I LOVE ALL CREATURES!!! But let's treat ALL humans with as much respect, please. 

karasharp0606
karasharp0606

@Steve Hatfalvi And you can testify? You witnessed this? Because I KNOW without a doubt, Mike would never intentionally hurt anyone or anything. 

ThatsMyTattooo
ThatsMyTattooo

@rickstlouis.rf You're a piece of human shit. Dontcha' just love free speech? Fuck off you racist asshole. See? I can swear too. smh 

Case AND point. Sadly, thanks. 

karasharp0606
karasharp0606

@Rhonda Johnston LOL good thing Mike didnt "drag him behind a car" isn't it. Ummm the man is legally BLIND and therefor cannot drive, nor does he own a car. Use facts not fiction lady! Wow, now I know that is a small town with nothing more than gossiping going on,  nothing more than a bunch of nosey neighbors! SMH!!

ThatsMyTattooo
ThatsMyTattooo

@hoperescues Why don't we ask the VET who he supposedly took him to prior what the story is? Wouldn't that be the best place to start?? 


hoperescues
hoperescues

@nmoungo Fact is Animal Abuse is no different than getting a speeding ticket.  It certainly is not held to the same accountability as child abuse.  Your argument is not rational at all.

puppypower
puppypower

@nmoungo woah woah woah. Let's not forget the condition the puppy was in when police took her away. As previously reported, she was "overheated, dehydrated, exhausted and suffered a lot of bad scrapes". That's more than a little tug that got blown out of proportion. This man neglects his dog, gets arrested, and still thinks his actions were justified. If you want to pay out of your own pocket for him to take "free" puppy classes, go right ahead. But bottom line, this dog or another dog should not be returned to him until he knows how to properly care for an animal. He failed to show that, hence no more dog. Service animals don't just happen, they go through rigorous training by professionals. Talk to a service dog trainer and see if they're willing to turn over their love & hard work to a guy like this. Legally blind or not, you don't just hand over a puppy to a guy like this.

hoperescues
hoperescues

@nmoungo @hoperescues  I have asked the vet..They said they did not tell him anything about walking the dog..Said he never asked them.

ThatsMyTattooo
ThatsMyTattooo

@hoperescues Sure it is. The whole point of CFS is to educate parents and reunite families. If you can't recognize the correlation, that's on you. 

ThatsMyTattooo
ThatsMyTattooo

@puppypower @puppypower Slam my opinion all you want, but I stand behind it. There's no way to legally, 100% guarantee this man never gets another dog. Without proper education, this could happen again, nobody wants that, so why not use this as an educational opportunity for a human being who obviously needs help? It also takes $$ to properly foster and re-home dogs, so why not give people in need the proper tools? Wouldn't that be win-win and a financial wash? Though improperly, at least he was trying to walk his dog, most people are too lazy to do that, should they be arrested too? Petco/Smart are absolutely amazing when it comes to charity, and I wouldn't doubt they'd be happy to help. I was a vet tech in my younger years, and though this picture only shows the pups sweet face, I don't see any SERIOUS injury. My dogs enjoy a good run, refuse water until they get home for whatever reason, and are thus dehydrated and exhausted, so maybe I should be arrested too? Keep in mind "witness accounts" are never totally reliable, & without video documented evidence this is a fall on its face non prima facie case based on hearsay. Yes, thank you for "enlightening" me, I'm well aware of the more common ways to train service animals, but there are those who live with the owner from puppyhood and they both get training together; there's no one "right" way to do something. I'm a member of ASPCA, but am also active in HUMAN rights issues, and believe in using opportunities for teaching instead of villainizing. If he had previously been cited for animal cruelty, it would be different. I think a guy who treated his animal badly on purpose, would not come out publicly in his own defense, but rather hide & hang his head in shame. Seems to me he loves this animal, he's willing to fight for her, so why not show him the right way? Compassion & charity are for people too, and central to a just society. 

My guess if he wasn't black, was more clearly disabled, people would be singing a different tune. That's just sad. I feel for both of them. 

ThatsMyTattooo
ThatsMyTattooo

@rickstlouis.rf My mothers twat has neither been invested in, nor "infested", I think that's the word you were looking for? You did get "goddamn" right, astonishingly, but "fucken" is actually spelled "fuckING". I usually don't bother with trolls, nor do I play grammar police, but if you're going to cuss me out sailor, at least do it right. If you're only 12 years old, my apologies to your mother.

ThatsMyTattooo
ThatsMyTattooo

@puppypower@hoperescues I think it's a GOOD thing we are able to discuss this openly and civilly. It NEEDS to be discussed. After taking trained dogs into visit the elderly, stroke rehabs, children's hospitals, even drug rehabs, I'm sure I don't need to tell you the power they have with the sick and infirm. When I lost my grandma, my head stayed buried in my dogs fur for weeks, I honestly do not know how I would have survived that without him. Yet, I don't consider pet ownership a privilege or a right necessarily, people who cannot care for them themselves often need their company more than others who are more able or financially bodied. 

I love programs that assist the needy in pet ownership responsibility & help supply kibble & education. In cases like this, I see owner education as more useful than charging a crime of misdemeanor & taking the pet away for good, since there's no way to make sure citizens cannot get another dog/pet (heck, you can even order modded AK's & 2000 clips online with no problem). I understand every situation is not appropriate for this, I get that, believe me, I do!! I've seen some really SICK things, as when I worked in the 24 hr clinic it was the graveyard, after hours, emergency shift, like pet a ER. It was the only 24hr clinic of its kind around for miles, so we were always busy (yet my favorite time was the down time where I could give love unabashedly to the sick pets, as sad as the job was at times, I LOVED loved my job). 

I used to feel similar to you both, so I totally get where you're coming from & sympathize. 20 years ago I would've been leading the charge against this man, I readily admit that. Time & life experience evolve us, as our perceptions & understanding of the world around us change. I was raised to question everything, don't take a damn thing at face value, and to ALWAYS  play my own 'Devil's Advocate' when an issue really fuels my emotions. Even more so then. It will either get easier OR harder to do this as we get older, depending on your personality and character. If we react on emotion and emotion alone, we tend to exclude logic and reason. Whether I agree with someone or not, I feel it's tantamount to a fair & balanced society to explore opposing opinions/sides with an open mind, to look at things clinically, without bias, & that IS hard to do sometimes, but EXTREMELY essential. 

I think we owe it to the animals and the people who love them to consider real solutions that will help end animal cruelty & neglect.That's why I support giving people who don't have any previous animal cruelty charges against them the benefit of the doubt & a second chance, combined with education. Simply removing the pet from someone who claims to love them, slapping charges on them, does NOT end the cycle, and the number of dogs needing re-homing will only continue to rise. With education, compassion, and charity, you WILL see change. Without it, things can only get worse. 

I'd love to see programs in less affluent areas offer free dog training sessions in a local area park for anyone that wants them. I know St Louiey once had dog food banks, I'd hope they still exist and are accessible to those in need, as well as in other areas. Pets shouldn't be only for the well educated or the affluent. Low cost spay & neuter clinics are just the beginning. I'd like to see this done for free, or on a sliding scale fee like a Planned Parenthood for pets; many vets agree and would, and do, donate their skill set one weekend a month or more of their own time. Without an increase in social programs like this, the number of unwanted pets will continue to rise as well, thus increasing pet ownership & abuse rates. 

Everyone deserves a pet to love if they wish, and the opportunity to learn how to care for it properly. They give us sooo much, that I'd hate to see finances or lack of education stop someone from receiving their love in return. In this sense, yes, it's a similar idea to how CFS works, educate educate educate, and keep families together, in this case: pets. 

I just felt this was turning into a witch hunt, instead of making it an opportunity to educate. We must keep an open mind and heart when dealing with all earth's creatures or we are surely lost. As for racism coloring this event, consider the ignorance of the above *comment & please understand it DOES exist and IS a HUGE problem in MO & elsewhere. Having a biracial family has proven to me repeatedly just how bad it truly is. People in general act on personal bias & emotion, whether subconsciously or not, and it effects all of us both directly and indirectly. Discrimination is a daily part of our lives, MY life, that's a disturbing, ugly, sad fact, & it's entirely unacceptable in a modern society. I cannot quantifiably say for a fact that those involved in this case were exercising such bigotry, but as common & blatant as racism is, it CANNOT be so readily excluded. 

* Excuse my language in the above post. I'm not sure I've ever swore on a public forum!! That type of mindset is beyond disgusting and repulsive, & I heartily refuse to tolerate intolerance in ANY form. 

I come from a long line of teachers & educators, who taught me the value of attacking ignorance through education, not fear, not emotion, not judgement. Real, true change only comes from knowledge, along with practical tools to implement this newfound knowledge. We must take a more clinical approach to this problem as a whole, if we want to see any real change. I'd happily volunteer to help out even more, if we're working towards keeping pets with owners instead of immediately claiming the animal. We (somewhat selfishly) genetically engineered these creatures, & over time they became be a part of society, we owe it to them to train the humans who love them, but aren't yet equipped to care for them properly. 

I continue to appreciate and support animal rescue operations, but the problem isn't going away, it's only getting worse. The only REAL long term, big picture solution is compassionate education, freely given unconditionally & non-judgmentally to all those in need. The CFS & Planned Parenthood stand as general models for such an undertaking. Instead of slapping hands away, embrace that hand and offer assistance. "It takes a village..." 

puppypower
puppypower

@nmoungo I'm neither slamming your opinion nor trying to enlighten you. It'd be great if this guy learns something out of all this, but the dog shouldn't be given back until then. His skin color and disability play no roll in this case whatsoever. He neglected his dog, so now he shouldn't have a dog until he proves otherwise. Go right ahead though and make this a human rights issue. Pet ownership is not a right, but a privilege to those responsible. But I'm sure I don't have to tell you that.

hoperescues
hoperescues

@nmoungo @puppypower Here is a question for you since you were a vet tech...What injuries remain on a dog that has suffered heat exhaustion?  Once that dog has been cooled down, and given proper fluids what injuries should the general public still see?

By the way there were no less than 15 witnesses that called the police.  The media has only talked to one of them.  The Police also drove up and saw a lifeless puppy being dragged down the sidewalk.  By your account everyone must be lying but this man.

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