FAIRFIELD — The owner of a 4-year-old mixed breed dog has been arrested on a cruelty charge while the dog continues to recover at a nearby veterinary hospital from heat exhaustion and cuts.

James L. Wiggins, 43, of Fairfield, was arrested Sunday on a charge of cruelty to animals after numerous passersby reported that he was dragging his dog, Bella, along Norridgewock Road.

A receptionist at Kennebec Veterinary Service in Oakland said that no information was available on Bella’s condition, but that the hospital has had several calls from people concerned about the dog.

Fairfield Police Chief Tom Gould said police received at least six phone calls around 4 p.m. Sunday about an apparently intoxicated man dragging a dog that appeared to be badly injured along Norridgewock Road. Sunday was hot and muggy, with temperatures reaching up to 88 degrees.

Gould said Wiggins was waving his arms as he walked down the road and eventually found a ride for himself and the dog. He said that onlookers followed the car to a home in Norridgewock and that when police arrived, they poured water on the dog to try to revive it.

He said the dog had signs of heat exhaustion, including dehydration and hyperthermia, as well as abrasions on its belly and paws. Bella is a mixed breed dog that looked like she was part golden retriever or beagle, Gould said.

He said that she was panting and couldn’t lift her head when officers found her.

Gould said he did not have the names of any of the people who reported the incident or the people who followed the car Wiggins was in, but said that officers knew the case was serious because so many people called.

The Somerset County Sheriff’s Department, Maine State Police and Fairfield Police Department responded to the reports.

Wiggins was taken to the Somerset County Jail, where he was later released on bail. He also faces a charge of violation of pre-existing bail conditions stemming from a July 5 arrest on a charge of operating under the influence.

He is scheduled to appear in Skowhegan District Court on Sept. 11. Cruelty to animals is a class D crime punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and imprisonment up to one year.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
rohm@mainetoday.com