MAGNA — A West Valley man has been arrested in connection with a case of a dog that was set on fire and abandoned in a field off I-80 near Magna.
Michael Paul Busico, 40, is accused of stealing his ex-girlfriend’s dog and lighting it on fire. He was booked into the Tooele County Jail late Monday for investigation of torture of a companion animal, arson, theft and trespassing.
Salt Lake County Animal Services reported Monday that an injured dog, believed to be a red tick heeler, was found on the north frontage road near 9400 West by animal control officers with the help of police. Brush also caught fire because of the incident.
The animal had second-degree burns to her face and “other burns to her fur,” according to a statement from Salt Lake County Animal Services. She was taken to the emergency room of a local vet clinic.
Animal Services spokeswoman Callista Pearson gave an update on the dog Tuesday, saying she was stable but still in critical condition with second- and third-degree burns primarily on her head and neck and inside her mouth, as well as burns on her pelvis and hind legs.
Investigators believe an accelerant may have also been used to fuel the fire.
The dog is currently receiving a lot of fluids and pain medication, Pearson said.
The incident began Monday when a dog was reported stolen in Tooele. A woman believed that Busico “had stolen the dog in retaliation to their failing relationship,” according to a police booking affidavit.
Just after 6 p.m., police responded to a report of a dog on fire on the frontage road near 9500 West. Another person walking their dog near the Great Saltair witnessed a man lighting a dog on fire, Pearson said. The witnesses was in the process of calling police when the man allegedly came back and stared at that person in an apparent effort to intimidate the witness, she said.
After the man left, the woman finished calling police. But by that time, the witness had lost sight of the dog and it took police, fire and animal service crews about two to three hours to find her.
The witness told investigators that a white man with a shaved head, approximately 6 feet tall, who was wearing a fluorescent green shirt with an orange stripe was a possible suspect. The man was driving a Toyota Tacoma and they provided a partial licence plate number.
“The victims advised (police) they saw their dog on the news and recognized her from the pictures. The victims also advised they recognized the description that was given out on the news” as matching Busico and what he was wearing that day, as well as his truck, according to the affidavit.
“Through investigation, it was found that (Busico) was in a dispute with the mother of the victim over $1,200 dollars and a past relationship that had ended,” the affidavit states. “Mr. Busico specifically targeted his ex-girlfriend’s daughter’s dog.
“From my training and experience, I believe that Mr. Busico was targeting the victim’s animal to directly intimidate and threaten her and his ex-girlfriend,” an officer wrote in the report.
When Unified police found Busico at a relative's house, he attempted to run as officers approached but was caught about 100 yards later, according to the affidavit. He was arrested and transported to the Tooele County Jail.
The dog was being treated Tuesday at Advanced Veterinary Care in Millcreek. Anyone wishing to make a donation to help pay for the dog’s medical expenses should contact the vet clinic.