A barbershop owner was held without bail after stabbing a dog nearly to death on Thursday night.
Fall River police say 45-year-old William Whitson stabbed 3-year-old blue nose pit bull Smokey while he was on a walk with his owner around 7:30 p.m.
Smokey suffered five stab wounds and was critically injured. He had a punctured lung and excessive bleeding, according to the Massachusetts-Rhode Island Veterinary Emergency Room in Swansea. His condition was upgraded from critical to serious on Friday.
"I didn't even realize he was stabbing my dog," an emotional Heather Lemieux said. "I thought he was punching my dog."
Smokey collapsed in the street, where several neighbors helped to slow his bleeding before rushing him to the veterinary hospital.
Whitson was arraigned on Friday on charges of animal cruelty, disturbing the peace while armed and assault with a dangerous weapon.
The suspect's brother told Fox 25 News on Friday that William Whitson had been intervening in a dog fight between Smokey and another neighborhood dog and that he had to defend himself when Smokey bit him.
"He was defending himself, and he was defending the lady and the dog," Michael Whitson said. "It's not like he went inside and said, 'Oh, I'm gonna kill this dog.'"
Lemieux said Smokey was on a leash when another unleashed dog ran up to him and the other dog's owner overreacted, calling for help from Whitson and others.
"The lady was screaming bloody murder," Lemieux said, "and I'm trying to reassure this woman this dog will not hurt your dog."
Lemieux said the stabbing followed a dispute a couple weeks ago in which Whitson's dog ran up to Smokey and Whitson threatened to hurt both her and her dog. The suspect's brother denied that allegation, saying Lemieux has been causing trouble in the neighborhood.
Lemieux, who said her dog is not aggressive and has never attacked anyone, is focused on bringing her dog home.
"My 8-year-old son was sent home from school, because he couldn't stop crying," Lemieux said. "They can't tell me he's going to be OK yet, so that's the thing that's killing me."
Whitson will appear in Fall River District Court again on Sept. 18, for a dangerousness hearing.