BEND, Ore. - Deschutes County District Attorney Patrick Flaherty shared with NewsChannel 21 on Saturday previously undisclosed information that could answer many of the questions surrounding the dog known as "Chance," whose severe injuries from apparent dragging by a car -- and the limited information released in the case -- sparked a firestorm of anger, doubts and concern.
Flaherty responded to our request for answers to more questions after releasing a statement late Friday that said he had reviewed the results of the sheriff's office investigation and agreed that the incident was "a tragic accident and not a criminal act," and that as a result, no criminal charges would be filed against the driver of the vehicle, which was going 45 to 50 mph at the time.
"DCSO detectives concluded, and I found no reason to question their conclusion that the driver did not see the dog jump out of the van due to vision impairment in his right eye," Flaherty wrote Saturday, revealing that information publicly for the first time.
"The last time the driver saw the dog was when the dog attempted to move from the back seat to the front seat and he made the dog stay in the back seat," the DA added.
Flaherty also said that "no one knows whether the dog jumped or fell out of the vehicle's window."
However, he added, "The driver said that he was playing his stereo loud, which detectives assume accounted for him not hearing anything."
Many commenters on KTVZ.COM and elsewhere have accused investigators of incompetence or covering up the facts, but Flaherty insisted, "There is no evidence of any 'cover-up.'
Friday's statement revealed that at least three people witnessed Chance (as the BrightSide Animal Center named him after he arrived there) being dragged by the vehicle but did not come forward until the story went public.
Flaherty was more specific Saturday, saying that the "witnesses saw the dog being dragged beneath and behind the vehicle."
"The report of a dog seen tied to a car bumper was determined to be unrelated to this incident," the DA said.
Regarding another frequently asked question -- about why the dog wasn't discovered for about 36 hours, until a passing motorists spotted him along Smith Rock Road near Terrebonne, Flaherty said: "As soon as the driver arrived home and realized the dog was not in the vehicle, he and others began searching for the dog."
"In addition to reiterating the importance of reporting criminal or suspicious events to law enforcement, it is important for dog owners to make certain their dog is properly secured in their vehicle," Flaherty wrote.
"Specific rules apply to open bed pickups; dog crates or other means of containing the dog inside a vehicle should be used to restrict the dog's ability to move around inside the vehicle or jump out."
Donors have given nearly $20,000 for Chance's medical expenses, BrightSide Animal Center Executive Director Chris Bauersfeld told The Bulletin in a story published Sunday.
About half of the money has come from local contributors and the rest from across the nation and as far away as Russia, Denmark and Australia, she told the paper, adding that the funds have been placed in a restricted account to pay for the dog's costly treatment.
Chance is likely to be at the shelter for another four to six months before he is fully recovered, Bauersfeld said. She added that the shelter is working to shift the focus to donations for the clinic in Chance's honor, "to help other dogs like Chance who come in here."
Bauersfeld also said Chance's owner has not come forward to claim him, so the shelter will put him up for adoption, noting "overwhelming" interest from people hoping to do so. It's hoped a suitable home will be found by Christmas; in the meantime, Bauersfeld said he goes home with her each night.
The DA said Friday at least three people saw the dog being dragged down the road but didn't call 911 or come forward until the story drew widespread attention.
Mary Anderson, chief deputy district attorney, told The Bulletin Friday she would not reveal more information about the witnesses.
However, she said the DA's office now believes the dog was on a long leash or rope fashioned as a leash when he jumped out the window.
Anderson told the paper the leash apparently was caught in the car for a period of time, dragging the dog until he came free on the side of the road, where he lay for up to 36 hours before he was found.
Here's the full news release issued by Flaherty about the recent case:
Chance: DA Reminds Community To Report
I have reviewed the investigation involving Chance, the dog that somehow managed to survive being dragged by a car traveling 40-50 mph. I'm happy to report that Chance continues to improve and heal, thanks in no small part to the great veterinary care and support he's received. By all accounts, he's a friendly dog who's shown tremendous heart in his recovery.
Based upon the investigation conducted by the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney will not be filing any criminal charges. Experienced deputies and detectives worked on this investigation and I agree with their conclusion that this was a tragic accident and not a criminal act.
That said, at least three different people witnessed the dog being drug down the highway and none of them called 911 or non-emergency dispatch to report what they saw; however, they did come forward after the media coverage of this incident.
Chance was found by a passing motorist approximately 36 hours after he was dragged down the road.
The people interviewed had various reasons for not reporting. I would like to remind our community to please call law enforcement when they witness a crime or suspected crime, including animal abuse or neglect, and give law enforcement agencies the opportunity to take appropriate and timely action.
You may call the non-emergency dispatch line at 541-693-6911 if you don't feel it is an emergency. In this case, it would have been entirely appropriate for the eyewitnesses to call 911.
Thank you to everyone who has supported Chance in his recovery, including Brightside Animal Shelter. "
The shelter reported this week that Chance was "progressing better than expected." You can check the latest updates about Chance from BrightSide at http://brightsideanimals.org/featured-posts/chance/