Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin

Officials: Man scalded dog with boiling water

December 18, 2017

BELOIT—Local humane society officials and law authorities say that Sunny, an 11-month-old Golden retriever dog, so far has survived severe burns after a Beloit resident left the dog under a bathroom shower with the water's heat turned up to boiling.

Yet officials say the dog, a female, now faces months of surgeries and recovery before its body might heal from the mistreatment police said Cody Allan Sholes, 26, Beloit, inflicted on it earlier this month.

Sunny's skin and tissue was so severely scalded by boiling water that in spots the burns reached into the muscle, and about 20 percent of its surface skin was either gone or so damaged it has since had to be removed surgically, humane society officials said.

Sholes faces a felony charge of animal mistreatment for putting Sunny, a female dog, in a tub at an apartment at 1728 1/2 Porter Ave., Beloit, and leaving the dog under a shower that was spewing scalding water on Dec. 8, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday at the Rock County District Attorney's office.

The incident happened on Dec. 8, after Sholes said he'd earlier turned the temperature of the apartment's water heater as hot as it would go because he said the apartment's faucets would run only cold water, according to the complaint.

He told police he was cleaning the dog after it had urinated and defecated inside the apartment, and he hadn't realized how hot the water was before he left Sunny unattended to care for a child in another room in the apartment.

A veterinarian for the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin told authorities that “in her three years as a veterinarian for the humane society, she had never seen such severe injuries caused by hot water on an animal.”

Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin director Brett Frazier said Sunny already has undergone a set of surgeries to remove singed skin and fur from burns he said are considered “thermo-injury.” It means the skin was so heated that its cells were killed almost immediately.

Frazier said the dog could face more surgeries this week, and in the coming weeks, and it might require skin grafts to repair some of its deepest burns.

He said in his five years with the humane society he's seen dogs with illness from severe neglect, but never had he known of a dog brought in with “acute injuries” as severe as Sunny's.

“We are a long, long way from being out of the woods with Sunny,” Frazier said on Sunday afternoon.

Frazier said a local veterinarian had stabilized the dog and brought it to the humane society for ongoing care on Wednesday after Beloit police had taken the dog. The complaint said Sunny had gone days after the injury before the dog's injuries were reported to Beloit police.

A woman who lives with Sholes had brought the dog to her sister's home three days after the injury, because she said she couldn't afford a vet bill, according to the complaint. Neither the woman or her sister initially were aware of the extent of the dog's injuries, but Sholes eventually told them about the hot water. The sister reported the incident to police, and the woman who lives with Sholes told police that Sholes had complained about a different dog she'd brought home, and he'd been trying to get rid of it.

Sholes later told Beloit police the shower's water was so hot it burned his hand when he tried to shut it off. He said the dog was crying and trying to tear down the shower curtain to get out of the tub, which is how Sholes said he realized the water was so hot, he later told police.

Police later reported they found no burns on Sholes's hands. He told police he didn't think the dog had serious injuries, claiming that for a few days after the shower he'd seen the dog “eating and playing.” The complaint said a veterinarian compared Sunny's burns to “oil or engine burns.”

Frazier on Sunday said he hadn't seen police reports or the complaint that detail how the dog was burned.

“I'm just not sure it matters to a humane society why something like this happened. What we know right now is that it happened, and it's not acceptable,” Frazier said.

Frazier said he's confident Rock County authorities would appropriately handle the case.

“It's now our job as a foster organization to help her recover and support her however we can to make sure Sunny is never exposed to anything like this again,” he said.

Because several days passed before police learned of the injury, Sunny had developed infections from the burns, including on its head. Police said when they found Sunny, the dog had large patches of fur and skin peeling away from burns with visible signs of infection.

Frazier said Sunny now is staying at the home of a Janesville veterinary technician, and is being given antibiotics. The vet tech in the past has handled volunteer foster care for the humane society, he said.

Sunny will continue to be treated by the humane society's veterinarian, and the dog was scheduled on Monday for another checkup, and potentially more surgery, Frazier said.

Frazier said Sunny is being given pain medication and seems to be in less pain than a few days ago. Earlier, Sunny was in so much pain she wouldn't allow people to touch her, he said.

Frazier said Sunny might bear scars her whole life, but he said the humane society hopes it can continue to help the dog heal.

“She's 11 months old. This is a trauma that for sure is as much emotionally damaging to a dog as it is physical. But dogs will surprise the heck out of you, and bounce back from things, a lot more so than people often can. Dogs can bounce back and trust again,” Frazier said. “That's what we're hoping for Sunny.”

Janesville Gazette

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