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July 27, 2021
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Family saying goodbye to dog set on fire

TOOELE — The owner of a dog that was kidnapped, burned and then abandoned along the frontage road near the Great Saltair, according to police, says the family is saying its goodbyes to Dixie.

“This is a very hard thing for me to post and tell everyone but we are going to have to say our goodbyes to our sweet Dixie girl,” Trista Dawn Heywood posted Monday on the Tooele Lost and Found Pets Facebook page.

While Dixie, a 4-year-old Red Heeler who suffered second- and third-degree burns to most of her body including her face, hind legs and even inside her mouth, had been making some progress, Heywood posted Monday that the surgeries her dog still needs “are going to be very hard on her and she may not make it out of them.”

Even if the surgeries are successful, Heywood said doctors only gave Dixie a year to a year-and-a-half to live, which would be filled with constant trips to the hospital and a poor quality of life.

“She would not be able to go outside and do the things a regular dog is suppose to do and be capable of. Our hearts are so broken and we have no words, this is news that we didn’t want to hear. We are at a loss, we were praying so hard that she would make it out of this because she didn’t deserve any of this to happen to her. She is suffering and we can’t continue to let her suffer… we love you so much Dixie and just know you are always in our hearts I’m so sorry this had to happen to you baby girl,” she wrote.

Dixie was injured March 1 when Michael Paul Busico, 40, took the dog from Heywood’s home in Tooele, drove to the frontage road off I-80 near 9400 West, and set the dog on fire, according to police. Investigators believe Busico took Dixie “to directly intimidate and threaten” his ex-girlfriend and her family, according to a police affidavit.

“In my 17 years working with Salt Lake County Animal Services, I have never seen such cruelty to an animal,” said Robert Naylor, the animal control officer who responded to the call and transported Dixie to the veterinary hospital. “With the hard work of multiple agencies may we bring to justice the person responsible for this act.”

Busico was arrested for investigation of torture of a companion animal, arson, theft and trespassing. As of Monday, formal charges had not been filed as prosecutors continued collecting evidence from both Tooele and Unified police.

After the incident, a GoFundMe page* was set up to help pay for Dixie’s medical bills. Heywood said any money leftover from Dixie’s expenses will be donated to the vet clinic “and resources that help abused animals.”

“Thank you to everyone for all your support and love, thank you for all of donations that have been coming in. We are more blessed than ever with what everyone has done for her and for us. We can’t even put it into words how grateful we are,” she wrote.

In a press release Monday, Salt Lake County Animal Services Director Talia Butler said the department plans on bringing forward “Dixie’s Law, an animal cruelty law with a stricter penalty for people who intentionally cause unthinkable pain and suffering to pets.”

“Dixie and her family are in our hearts and our prayers. This case has been emotionally difficult for our Animal Control Officers,” Butler said. “This devastating attack on a companion animal is unacceptable.”

Future donations made on behalf of Dixie to Animal Services will now go to the department’s Injured Animal Fund, which according to the press release will be used to “help hundreds of sick and injured homeless animals that enter the shelter every year.”


*KSL.com does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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