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WEST VALLEY CITY — A man who police say set his ex-girlfriend's daughter's dog on fire to "directly intimidate and threaten" the woman and her daughter has been arrested.
Michael Paul Busico, 40, was booked into the Tooele County Jail early Tuesday morning for investigation of torturing an animal and arson, both felonies, as well as misdemeanor theft and trespassing, according to jail records.
Busico allegedly set the dog on fire near Magna at 9400 West and the North Frontage Road on Monday, according to Salt Lake County Animal Services.
Salt Lake County Animal Control officers located the dog with the assistance of police officers. The dog was wandering in the brush, setting the brush on fire. The dog, named Dixie, was taken by officers to an emergency veterinary hospital where it was determined she had second-degree and third-degree burns to her head, pelvis, hind end, belly, and mouth. The dog's outcome remains uncertain as of Tuesday; officials said she remains in critical condition. She is currently on fluids and pain medication.
Earlier Monday, the father-in-law of the dog's owner, reported a theft at a Tooele home, according to a jail report for Busico. The father-in-law told police that Busico had been at the house and had stolen his daughter-in-law's dog. Busico is the ex-boyfriend of the victim's mother, according to the jail report.
The victim told police that Busico, who was at the house while she was leaving, had come over to give the dog treats, the jail report states. The victim said this was "highly suspicious," as Busico rarely gave the dog treats, according to the report.
The victim left the house while Busico was there, but she returned to find the dog missing, despite it being kept in an enclosed, fenced area, according to the report. The victim suspected that Busico took the dog in "retaliation" to a failing relationship between him and the victim's mother, the jail report said.
"I hope he rots in hell," the ex-girlfriend's daughter, Trista Heywood, tearfully said of the man accused of burning her dog, Dixie. "I just hope he rots for doing something like this because if (he) could do it to an animal, he could have done it to my baby.
"I was very heartbroken and very distraught. I just don't know how someone could be so cruel," Heywood said. "She's a very well-mannered dog and she means everything to our family."
Police later determined that Busico was in a dispute with the victim's mother over $1,200 and the failing relationship, according to the report.
"He had reached out to me and multiple different family members to try and help him fix things between him and my mother. None of us had been willing to help him," Heywood said.
A witness described Busico as a white male with a shaved head, wearing Dickies with a fluorescent green shirt with an orange stripe. He was also described as being 6 feet tall, according to Salt Lake County Animal Control.
A witness told officers that Busico was driving a green Toyota Tacoma truck with a partial plate of (Q or K)42. Another witness also told police they saw Busico removing items from his Tacoma into his home, according to the jail report.
Just after 6 p.m., police responded to the area near 9500 W. Frontage Road north of I-80 in Salt Lake County on a report of a dog set on fire. Witnesses said they saw a man matching Busico's description flee the scene in a Tacoma.
The victims also recognized pictures of their dog on the news and recognized the suspect description given out on the news as matching Busico and his vehicle.
Police later found the Tacoma at Busico's father's house, according to the jail report. Police attempted to arrest Busico after they saw him exit the house, but he fled and was arrested about 100 yards away, the report said.
Police believed Busico "was targeting the victim's animal to directly intimidate and threaten her and his ex-girlfriend," the arresting officer wrote in the jail report.
Dixie the dog is described by animal services as a female red tick heeler. Dixie was wearing a brown leather collar but officials didn't find a tag or microchip when she was scanned.
Animal control officials said that donations will be accepted to help pay for her medical treatment at slc.org or you can visit AdoptUtahPets.org for additional information. Police estimated that the dog's injuries would likely cost the owners several thousand dollars, the jail report said.
Salt Lake County Animal Control is investigating the incident, according to Unified police.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the relationship between the father-in-law and his daughter-in-law who is the owner of the dog.
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Contributing: Paul Nelson, KSL NewsRadio