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UPDATE: Dalton Utilities says meter reader accused of hurting dog is innocent

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Osito dragging his back legs after the incident. Osito dragging his back legs after the incident.
DALTON, GA (WRCB) -

UPDATE: Dalton Utilities is responding to allegations a meter reading worker is to blame in injuring a family pet that ultimately had to be put down. 

The utility released the following statement Tuesday afternoon: 

"A complaint has been filed with the Whitfield County Sheriff’s office against a Dalton Utilities Meter Reading Worker for allegedly harming a dog.  We have performed an internal investigation and believe this complaint to be false and unfounded. 

Our water meter reading worker never touched the dog in any manner.  A second worker was present and witnessed these events from our truck that was in the road.  This worker, who was approximately 15 feet away, never approached the fence or the area of the meter well and confirmed that the worker reading the meter never touched the dog. 

The worker reading the meter was separated from the dog by a chain link fence and never crossed into the fenced in area. The meter was also outside of the fenced in area.  The dog never left the fenced in area. Our worker was at the location for less than two minutes according to the readings taken from our meter reading software. 

The worker reading the meter was carrying only a screwdriver that is commonly used to access the water meter well but was not carrying anything that contained an electrical charge as alleged in the customer complaint.  He never touched the dog with the screwdriver in any manner. 

Both workers witnessed the dog running back and forth in front of the fence barking.  As the worker reading the meter finished his reading, he noticed the dog suddenly yelp and begin dragging his back legs.  He did not touch the dog in any manner before this happened.

The owner of the dog was standing on the porch approximately 40 feet away and never left the porch before the worker completed his reading. She spoke to the worker reading the meter in Spanish, but, as he does not speak Spanish, he could not understand what she was saying and left to go to the next meter. She never left the porch to try to speak with him.  It is our understanding that the owner of the dog speaks no English, so communication between the parties, as alleged in the complaint, would have been difficult, if not impossible.

Although we have not seen the veterinarian’s written report on the dog, we do know that the incident was reported to have happened at approximately 11:30 a.m. on Friday, August 12.  The report was made at 6:50 p.m. that same day, and the owner of the dog took the dog to the veterinarian on Saturday, August 13. To our knowledge, there is no evidence from the veterinarian’s examination that indicates this dog had visible injuries, or was in any manner injured by trauma or any other outside force.  There is also no evidence that our worker touched or harmed this pet in any manner.  

While we are saddened that this or any family would experience the loss of a pet, there is no indication that this loss was caused in any manner by a worker from Dalton Utilities.

The investigation is currently ongoing by the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Department.  Until the department has released its findings, we have no other comment on this case."


PREVIOUS STORY: A Dalton family had to put their dog to sleep after claiming he was shocked and subsequently paralyzed by a local utility worker.

The Whitfield County Sheriff's Office is actively investigating the incident as animal cruelty.

The Nieto family said the dog's injuries were so severe that they didn't have much of a choice but to put it down.

A vet told them the dog needed surgery that couldn't guarantee it could walk again, and would have cost thousands of dollars.

The family is still coping with the loss of their dog, Osito. The 10-year-old Jack Russell Terrier was paralyzed.

Pascual Nieto said a Dalton Utilities worker shocked the dog through his parents' fence during a meter reading.

"My mom saw the boy when he did it," said Nieto. "She hollered, What did you do to my dog? The boy just looked and said, he's barking."

Nieto said, Osito, who weighed 20 pounds, was struck with an electrical prong while barking inside of the fence.

Unable to move its lower body, the dog could only drag his rear legs behind him.

"(The vet) told me they paralyzed the dog from halfway back," Nieto explained.

The family purposely built their fence so the meter was not enclosed, so workers wouldn't have to walk inside the gate.

Nieto said his 67-year-old mother is heartbroken without her pet. Osito wasn't just a companion; he was an alarm system.

"Because she's by herself most of the time, every time somebody came, the dog started barking," he said.

A spokesperson for Dalton Utilities said crews are not equipped with the kind of electrical equipment listed in the complaint.

The company launched its own internal investigation, and has identified the two workers who were at the home. Their meter-reading system shows they were there for about a minute.

The Nieto's say they hope someone learns from this.

"They need to do something. Because if you do nothing, they could start doing it to other dogs," he said. "They need to make an example for other people, too."

Dalton Utilities said the lead detective on the case has not spoken with their employees yet, but is scheduled to meet with them later this week.

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