Man accused of beating pit bull pleads not guilty

Man accused of beating pit bull pleads not guilty »Play Video
Stormy Gage appears in court for his arraignment at the Regional Justice Center on Oct. 19, 2010.
KENT, Wash. -- An Auburn man charged with first-degree animal cruelty for allegedly beating his 8-year-old pit bull over the head with a rock and then slitting her throat pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday. But family members say the man was just trying to put the dog out of its misery.

Stormy Gage, 49, was released on his own personal recognizance after the judge ruled he wasn't a threat to society.

Gage was arrested last month after a witness claimed he saw the man repeatedly bludgeoning a dog with a rock near Big Bend Park on the afternoon of Sept. 27.

The witness reported the incident to the police, who arrived on scene and found the pit bull, named Jewels, with severe injuries to her head. The dog’s throat had been slit, and officers found a wood-handled knife hidden under some nearby brush.

Gage told police that Jewels had been hit by a car and he was only trying to help the dog "go peacefully," court documents said. However, investigators said a veterinarian later told police Jewels' injuries were not consistent with being hit by a car.

The dog was rushed to Five Corners Animal Hospital in Burien for emergency surgery to repair the neck injury, which included a severed jugular vein. The veterinarian also discovered a cancerous tumor in the dog's right-front leg.

Jewels survived the attack, but had to have her leg amputated because of the cancer.

After Tuesday's arraignment, Gage's wife told KOMO News Jewels needed vet care for very serious problems they just couldn't afford to fix.

"To take a dog or any animal into any vet, it's a minimum of $150," Iola Gage said. "We just don't have that. We're barely surviving with maybe $75 a week after I pay the bills."

When asked if there was a more humane way that Jewel's situation could have been dealt with, she replied: "There probably was, but again, it takes money and we just don't have it."

Animal control shelter Sgt. Brenda Dyrdahl says since the incident, Jewels has regained her spirit.

"She's happy, she's just so happy," Dyrdahl said Thursday. "She just likes everybody. She's a happy, happy, dog."

Those caring for her say the cancer will likely come back, but Jewels remains in high spirits and they hope someone will adopt her when she's eventually ready.

If convicted, Stormy Gage could face up to five years in prison.