Michael Burns allegedly used knife to slit the throat of his golden retriever

A Forest Grove man was indicted Friday on animal abuse and neglect charges related to killing the family dog Dec. 1.

Michael Burns, 45, used a knife to slit the throat of Emma, the family’s golden retriever, according to the Washington County Sheriff's Office, which handles that small unincorporated section of Forest Grove.

Burns told deputies that Emma, a longtime family pet, became aggressive in their Nichols Lane home and tried to bite him, said Bob Ray, public information officer for the sheriff’s office.

According to Ray, Burns took out his knife and had started to cut Emma’s throat when she broke away and ran down the hallway to the bedroom of Burns’ 17-year-old son, whose door was closed.

The teenager told police he heard Emma yelping in an unusual way and knew something bad was happening, but he didn’t open his bedroom door, Ray said.

Burns caught up to Emma and finished the job, Ray said.

Two days later, a friend of the family contacted sheriff’s deputies, who found no evidence of a dog bite when they interviewed Burns. The officers investigated the incident and interviewed various people, then arrested Burns Dec. 8.

On Friday a Washington County Grand Jury indicted Burns on first degree aggravated animal abuse, first degree animal abuse and second degree animal neglect, two Class C felonies and a Class B misdemeanor. Burns, who will remain out of custody, has a pre-trial court appointment on Feb. 4.

Ray notes that it’s legal in Oregon to euthanize pets, as many people do — usually by shooting them. It’s also legal for people to hurt or kill an aggressive animal to protect themselves.

But somewhere in between those two legal actions is behavior that can be interpreted as “cruel and unusual,” which triggers the animal-related abuse and neglect statutes, Ray said.

According to Washington County records, Burns has no previous criminal history, Ray said.

No one answered when the News-Times attempted to contact Burns or his family at home, where a friendly black cat with tags was meowing outside the door.

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