SALT LAKE CITY — The owners of a dog that was intentionally set on fire and left near a Utah highway are asking for changes to be made to animal cruelty laws in Utah.
Dixie, a red heeler, was found March 1 after being abandoned along North Frontage Road near Interstate 80.
The dog was allegedly taken by Michael Paul Busico, 40. Busico has known the dog’s owner, Trista Heywood, for more than a decade as he is her mother’s ex-boyfriend.
Busico was charged with Arson, Torture of a Companion Animal, Theft, and Failure to Stop at Command of a Law Officer. The first three charges are felonies, while the fourth is a misdemeanor.
Trista and her husband, Tucker Heywood, hope that through Dixie’s story there will be harsher punishments for people who commit premeditated acts of animal cruelty. The couple is working with Salt Lake County Animal Services to make this become a reality.
They Heywood’s hope Dixie’s story will help others.
“If Dixie can help another dog in the future, what happened to her won’t be in vain,” Trista said.
The couple believe Busico had been planning the attack for quite a while, as he had let them know previously, he had stopped in their backyard to give Dixie treats. Something that Tucker said made them feel uneasy.
“I think he has been planning this for longer than a week, for sure,” he said.
The hope is to create a law that has mandatory jail time and a mandatory fine, Callista Pearson with Salt Lake County Animal Services said.
“In order to prevent this from happening again, we need better laws that prevent people from even considering something like this, so they know they will not get away with it and that they will be held accountable,” she said.
The family is working to deal during this difficult time and said they are so thankful for the outpouring of love and support.
“It just goes to show there are more people with a heart than there are that don’t have one,” Tucker said.