A former Buxton man who beat his pet dog so badly that the animal’s eyes had to be surgically removed has been ordered to spend the next nine months in jail.

Bruce Simpson, 44, also has been barred from ever owning a pet again.

Simpson pleaded guilty to aggravated cruelty to animals, a felony. He was sentenced Monday to three years in jail, with all but nine months suspended.

He also received two years’ probation and a $1,000 fine and was ordered to pay $3,000 restitution to cover the dog’s medical bills.

“We all had a good cry over him going to jail,” said Buxton’s animal control officer, Michelle Lohutko, describing Simpson’s as the worst case of animal cruelty she has ever seen.

The abused dog is a 7-pound papillon, a breed of small spaniel known for its large, perky ears, which resemble a butterfly’s wings.

The dog, which authorities believe is at least 10 years old, has been rescued twice, authorities say. The dog had lived for years at J’aime Kennel in Buxton, which authorities raided in August 2007, seizing 250 severely neglected animals.

Simpson adopted the dog in December 2007 from the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, in Westbrook. Lohutko said Simpson has a polite, intelligent demeanor, and the animal shelter knew nothing of his temperament.

In January 2009, witnesses saw Simpson kicking the dog repeatedly in the head and swinging it by its leash, smashing it into the wall, Lohutko said. The abuse happened outside Simpson’s apartment, across from the Eliza Libby Elementary School, though apparently no children witnessed it.

“The beating went on for about 10 minutes,” Lohutko said. “He was laughing through the whole thing. It was lifeless when he dragged it inside. We thought the dog was dead.”

Police Chief Michael Grovo responded to the call.

“You could see where the dog had been abused. There was blood on the snow it (the blood) just went into a big barn then it went to the lower apartment,” Grovo said. “I could hear Bruce. I knew the abuse was still occurring.”

Simpson let Grovo into the apartment and denied that he had been abusing the dog, the chief said.

Grovo said he alerted the Department of Human Resources because a preschool-age girl was there, and sometimes animal abuse can indicate domestic abuse. However, he said there was no indication the girl was harmed.

Police also removed a pug, a cat, a rabbit and two finches from Simpson’s apartment. One of the finches had an untreated broken leg, but none of the other animals appeared injured, Lohutko said.

Simpson voluntarily signed the dog over to police so it could receive medical attention. The dog underwent surgery for swelling on the brain, and an ophthalmologist removed its eyes because the lenses had been badly damaged, Lohutko said. It has just one tooth left.

Prosecutors secured an indictment against Simpson, who already had a criminal record. According to the State Bureau of Identification, Simpson served six months in jail for assault and has convictions for terrorizing, theft and disorderly conduct.

While Simpson was out on bail in 2009, he was barred from having pets. He moved to Sanford and was charged there with violating bail conditions after he was reported to have adopted a pet cat.

Remarkably, the dog, which had been named Pappi but is now called Tom, remains a good-natured pet and has found itself in a new home.

Fire Chief Bruce Mullen heard about the dog’s plight and suggested he and his wife, Kathy, adopt the dog. They already have one papillon, Dixie, who is 3 years old.

“She’s very protective of him,” Kathy Mullen said. “When she barks if somebody is coming in, he runs to her side.”

Tom navigates the house with ease, running through the place despite his blindness, she said.

“He’s an inspiration for us, for sure,” Mullen said.

Lohutko said she hopes the ordeal prompts people to report animal abuse when they suspect it.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: [email protected]