GLOVERSVILLE - Two people have been charged as city police continue their investigation into a dog-injury case that sparked an international outcry after photos of the incident were posted on Facebook.
Kevin Johnson Jr., 23, of 14 Franklin St., was charged Thursday with overdriving, torturing and injuring animals, a misdemeanor, as well as one count each of having an unlicensed dog and failure to provide proof of compulsory rabies vaccination, both violations.
Kristina Gardner, 24, of the same address, was charged with one count each of having an unlicensed dog and failure to provide proof of compulsory rabies vaccination.
On Monday, police received a complaint of animal abuse at 14 Franklin St., and the officer who responded determined Johnson had intervened in a fight between a pit bull name Halfton, which belongs to Gardner, and his own dog, a boxer.
Authorities said Gardner and Johnson previously had been romantic partners and were getting back together.
Police said Johnson was bitten while trying to separate the dogs. Photos of the incident that later surfaced on Facebook show Johnson's foot raised over the dog's head and him dragging the dog by the collar.
Capt. John Sira, the spokesman for the Police Department, said the charges were based on Johnson's behavior and the timeline of events.
"There's a fine line between corrective behavior and being excessive, and we felt that he had been excessive in his discipline of the dog," Sira said.
A phone number listed for Johnson has been disconnected. Attempts to reach him at his home for comment have been unsuccessful.
Sira said Halfton still legally belongs to Gardner, but the dog is staying at another undisclosed location. The boxer is still in Johnson's possession, Sira said. After both dogs were examined by a veterinarian, no long-term abuse was detected, and the injuries were determined to be consistent with a dog fight, Sira said.
Sira said the tickets issued are returnable in City Court on May 16 and the judge will determine what happens next.
Since Tuesday, calls from all over the United States and other countries have overwhelmed police, who have only four officers on duty at a time and typically only two people at the front desk and perhaps a sergeant answering the administrative line.
"Our day-to-day phones are naturally busy from the citizens in the city and other administrative tasks. By adding the call volume that we had in reference to this [case], they were overburdened significantly," Sira said.
Mayor Dayton King shared an e-mail this morning from another police department commending city police. He said he was "very proud" of them.
"Our Police Department did a fantastic job! When people from around the country and parts of the world were trying to pressure them to make an arrest, they remained professional. It turned out that speaking to people and doing a full investigation led to charges being filed," King said this morning in an e-mail.
King said he has received close to 1,000 e-mails as well as Facebook messages and phone calls regarding the case. Most of the messages are from people who live outside the state and even from other countries, he said.
"I believe I have been very accessible to the public, perhaps to a fault. People want information immediately, and when they get a response, they only want more," King said. "We have a legal system that we must use. We will not feel pressured to make a bad judgment because we aren't going as fast as someone believes we should."
Some of the comments posted by Facebook users on the Help Halfton page included rumor, speculation and personal information about Johnson, but by Wednesday afternoon, the administrators of the page repeatedly asked people to stop posting personal information about people.
About 15 local people attended a peaceful vigil on Franklin Street on Wednesday night, calling for Johnson to be charged. The vigil was organized by Tracie Savage, from Texas, Khristine Taylor of Gloversville and Jackie Brooks of Broadalbin.
Brooks this morning said the arrest was "a relief," but another vigil is planned at City Hall at 4 p.m. Monday to push for maximum punishment for Johnson.
According to Facebook, 83 people have replied that they will attend the event, but many of them are from outside the area.
Brooks said she thought the international attention to the case pushed it to the forefront.
"I think it had a lot to do with it because it was kind of like, how convenient, the next morning he was arrested," she said.
King said city police can only enforce the laws on the books. "If people want stricter penalties, they need to contact their legislators, not the police or my office," King said.
Amanda Whistle covers Gloversville news. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org