It was a heartbreaking story of animal cruelty over the holidays. Just before Thanksgiving, a starving pit bull left in a garbage bag was found abandoned in the Wissahickon.
Now, the PSPCA has announced that the person responsible was a Philadelphia police officer.
Michael Long, 33, of the 8200 block of Michener Avenue, was arrested Thursday on animal cruelty charges for allegedly abandoning the pit bull, later renamed Cranberry after being rescued by a Good Samaritan and brought to the PSPCA.
Long had adopted the dog last year, officials said.
The PSPCA identified Long as the owner through the dog's microchip, said Nicole Wilson, director of Humane Law Enforcement at the PSPCA.
"This is somebody that was supposed to defend the community and animals and people,” Wilson said, "and clearly there has been an abuse of that trust.”
Cranberry was microchipped when Long adopted her in August 2016 from the Animal Care & Control Team of Philadelphia, just months before he allegedly put her in a garbage bag and dumped her in the woods, according to Wilson.
“When he adopted it, part of that contract is if you have any problems or concerns at any time, he could have returned it to that same organization. He didn't,” Wilson said. “It's obviously very disheartening that he chose the path he did."
The Philadelphia Police Department confirmed that Long, an 11-year veteran of the force assigned to the 18th District, turned himself into Internal Affairs Thursday to be arrested on misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty. Commissioner Richard Ross has ordered him suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss, a spokeswoman said.
Long could not immediately be reached for comment. It's unknown why the dog was abandoned.
“He has not acknowledged any wrongdoing in this case as of this time,” Wilson said. "It's safe to say his account of events with regard to the dog does is not reflected by the evidence in this case."
Cranberry was found by a woman on a hike in the Wissahickon on Nov. 23, 2016, who spotted a garbage bag in the woods. When she approached it, shefound a shivering, emaciated dogpeering out. The woman called the PSPCA, and two officers soon arrived and took the animal to a shelter for care.
The dog was suffering from a number of issues due to not receiving sufficient sustenance, Wilson said, and was badly in need of veterinary care when she was abandoned.
Long was identified as a suspect shortly after Cranberry was found due to the microchip, Wilson said, but an arrest was delayed while the case was reviewed by city prosecutors.
Cranberry has since made a full recovery and in December found a homewitha new owner.