Man Who Blew Up Dog to Face Animal Cruelty Charge After Uproar

By Betty Wang, JD on August 08, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A man arrested for allegedly blowing up his dog is set to face an animal cruelty charge -- though prosecutors initially questioned whether the charge fit the alleged crime.

Christopher Dillingham, 45, of Stevenson, Washington, allegedly attached explosives to his dog's neck and then set them off, according to The Associated Press. Neighbors heard a loud explosion about 4 a.m. Sunday. When police responded, they found the blown-up body parts of Cabella, a Labrador Retriever, splattered all across Dillingham's yard.

Prosecutors at first only charged Dillingham for the alleged use of explosives. Why didn't they decide to charge him with animal cruelty until days later?

Did His Dog 'Suffer'?

Animal cruelty laws vary by state. In Washington, animal cruelty is defined as substantial pain, physical injury, or death of an animal by means causing undue suffering.

There was actually a controversy in Dillingham's case earlier this week, about whether or not he should actually be charged with animal cruelty. Apparently, the fact that the dog's death was instantaneous was a key detail in the determination: Since it died instantly, it may be arguable whether or not there was any "undue suffering," as required by the law, The Huffington Post reported.

However, despite the initial ambiguous reading of the law, prosecutors' opinions have apparently changed. This may have been due to public pressure, as The Wall Street Journal implied, but prosecutors also said that upon further research, the "suffering" element wasn't as crucial to the law as they'd first believed.

Dillingham is set to be charged with animal cruelty at his next court appearance, the AP reports.

Explosive Charges

Aside from animal cruelty, Dillingham is also charged with reckless endangerment and possession of an explosive device, according to Portland, Oregon's KATU-TV.

Under Washington state law, reckless endangerment is defined as recklessly engaging in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person. In this case, Dillingham's use of fireworks could make him guilty of this.

Also pertaining to Dillingham's use of fireworks is the charge of possessing an explosive device. In this case, fireworks would certainly qualify. Possession of fireworks is generally illegal under Washington state law as well.

Dillingham was being held in jail on $500,000 bond, the AP reports. If convicted of all charges, he could face more than 20 years in prison.

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