Robby Gaines is looking for justice in what he calls “the murder” of his 4-year-old service dog last September while the former soldier was passing through Columbus fleeing a hurricane.
A Muscogee County grand jury on Jan. 31 indicted Jimmy Lee Gonzales, 39, on one count of aggravated animal cruelty and two counts of tampering with evidence. Gonzales was arrested this week and booked into the Muscogee County Jail on Thursday.
For Gaines, it is a critical development in a five-month ordeal.
“He shot him multiple times with an automatic weapon and cut him up,” he said. “He was clearly trying to get the chip out of him.”
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The $4,500 dog’s remains were recovered, Gaines said. The dog had been microchipped, the owner said.
“I don’t care what you want to call it, the way that he killed that dog was murder,” Gaines said. “Then he cut him up to get the evidence.”
Gonzales has not been convicted in the case and faces arraignment in Muscogee County Superior Court in the next two weeks.
Whiz was a distinctive brindle pit bull with white markings that trained as a post-traumatic stress disorder service dog. Days before Whiz was killed, he had traveled to Guam with Gaines. As a service dog, Whiz flew in the airplane cabin with his owner.
Gaines had owned Whiz since birth and owns both of the dog’s parents. Whiz had been through obedience training in addition to the PTSD certification, Gaines said.
Gaines, who now lives in California, lived in Florida at the time and was passing through Columbus on Labor Day weekend as he evacuated a storm. He was traveling with three dogs, two females and Whiz, when he stopped at a friend’s home. He left Whiz, who was crated, and said he would be back the next morning.
“He had just used the bathroom and he could stay in the crate up to 10 hours without a problem,” Gaines said.
Gonzales was at the friend’s house, Gaines said.
Gaines, who left Columbus and went to Atlanta, got a call from Gonzales saying that Whiz had gotten into a fight with another dog and run away. Gaines quickly returned to Columbus, where his dog was nowhere to be found.
“You know, he rode around with me for four hours looking for Whiz,” Gaines said of Gonzales. “He would say, ‘He may be down here or over there.’”
Whiz was special to Gaines.
“That dog left a mark on everyone he met,” he said. “He went up into the cockpit during the flight to Guam. He was a legit service dog.”