An Iowa man is accused of butchering a family member’s two dogs with an axe.
Douglas Usgaard, 21, has been charged with two counts of animal torture following the gruesome alleged Sept. 14 attack, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.
A 13-year-old Shih Tzu named Maz, and Trina, a 14-year-old Labradoodle, were killed in the incident.
Authorities have provided little information beyond the nature of the canines' death.
Officials said the pets belonged to a woman named Amy Usgaard but it's also unclear how she’s related to the accused dog-killer. Oxygen.com was unable to reach the Usgaard family for comment.
Some in the small city of Decorah — tucked just beneath the Minnesota state line, about 200 miles northeast of Des Moines — have been deeply disturbed by the dogs’ alleged killings.
“I was shocked,” said Cheyenne Christopher, the executive director for the Humane Society of Northeast Iowa.
“I didn’t want to believe what I was reading,” she added, upon first learning of the pets’ suspected murders. “We’re very lucky in Decorah, for the most part we have a lot of animal-lovers.”
Christopher said the alleged nature of the dogs' death was disturbing.
“Doing it in this particular way, it seems extremely malicious and just unheard of,” the 25-year-old said. “It’s a brutal murder, excessive overkill. It’s not a quick, easy, painless death. I’m sickened and sad.”
The Humane Society director added that a friend of the Usgaard family made a memorial donation in Maz and Trina’s memory to the non-profit animal advocacy group.
“My heart goes out to them,” Christopher added, referring to the dog’s owners.
Usgaard’s arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 15 in Winneshiek County Court. He’s being held on a $5,000 bond. The 21-year-old was also arrested and charged in July with property theft, after he allegedly stole two iPhones from a college football stadium in Decorah, according to a separate arrest affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.
The suspected dog-killer’s case comes at a time when animal cruelty laws are under scrutiny in Iowa.
“They’re definitely light,” Tom Colvin, CEO of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, told Oxygen.com.
“When it comes to animals in Iowa, it’s difficult to get a felony at all,” he added.
In the state, animal torture cases are prosecuted as an aggravated misdemeanor for a first offense, Colvin explained. That penalty carries a maximum of two years in prison and a fine up to $6,250. But, for repeat animal abusers, charges are upgraded to felony offenses, which can include a maximum of five years in prison and a $7,500 fine.
In Usgaard’s case, both counts of animal torture have been classified as aggravated misdemeanors — not felonies.
“It’s disgusting,” the Animal Rights League CEO also said.
“What is the possible motivation for something like this? And what’s the message from society from how we’re going to view this in the court system for actions like this?”
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