Frisco, a miniature poodle, was hospitalized last year with 17 broken ribs, a punctured lung and significant bruising under his white fluffy coat.
Travis County prosecutors believe it was the result of a beating by the dog’s owner, a Kyle police officer.
David Salinas, 34, is charged with animal cruelty in connection with the life-threatening injuries Frisco allegedly sustained while the two were alone in Salinas’ North Austin apartment in April 2017. Frisco survived his injuries after receiving medical assistance and continues to live with Salinas and his fiancée.
Salinas pleaded not guilty Tuesday on the first day of his felony trial after previously rejecting a plea deal with prosecutors who offered to dismiss the case if he surrendered his peace officer license and signed a document stating the evidence against him is sufficient for a criminal conviction. He faces up to two years behind bars if convicted.
Salinas was enrolled in Kyle’s police academy at the time of the alleged incident. He now works full-time with the Police Department in an administrative role, according to a city of Kyle spokeswoman who declined to further comment on Salinas’ involvement in the case.
In May 2017, Salinas prevailed in an animal seizure case and a justice of peace allowed him to retain ownership of Frisco. But the criminal investigation continued, and a grand jury indicted him with a state jail felony in December.
Salinas paid $100 for the dog in October 2016 as a gift to his then-pregnant girlfriend, prosecutors said. Frisco at that time was named Benny — the name the Austin Humane Society gave him. He was 8 or 9 years old.
Prosecutors said Salinas soon became irritated by the dog’s odor at the Lamplight Village Avenue apartment he shared with his fiancée. While she was away at work on a Saturday afternoon, Salinas was responsible for Frisco and placed the dog on the outside balcony while he cleaned the home, prosecutor Jessica Wolfe told the jury.
Salinas told police he walked Frisco as he took trash to a nearby dumpster. But Frisco stopped at one point and was unable to make it back to the apartment, he said.
When Salinas’ fiancée returned from work, she discovered the dog could barely move and had urinated on himself. The couple then took Frisco to the Emergency Animal Hospital.
Salinas said he is not sure what happened to the dog, but believes Frisco might have been injured earlier while trying to slide through an opening in the balcony railing, defense lawyer Gene Anthes told the jury.
Lori Eppolito, a veterinarian tech, testified Frisco was breathing hard and had a small tongue laceration. The injuries are consistent with blunt force trauma, she said. Frisco was given medication to reduce pain and was forced to eat from a syringe for two or three days, she said.
Dr. Allison Tate, a veterinarian at the hospital, said the 20-pound Frisco was crying out in pain and had an elevated heart rate. The dog could not stand, she said. Tate said that Salinas originally declined medical assistance for the dog and wanted to take him home, but he later agreed to pay $1,400 for treatment and blood tests after the hospital staff notified police about a possible assault on Frisco.
An X-ray revealed 17 of Frisco’s 26 ribs were broken, resulting in a total of 23 fractures.
Prosecutors filed a court document in which they accused Salinas of a separate March 2017 attack against Frisco. According to the filing, Salinas’ fiancée had just returned from a trip when she found the dog unable to eat or walk and exhibiting signs of lethargy.