Joint Investigation by the Sheriff’s Office and the Central New York SPCA Leads to Animal Cruelty Arrest in Death of Dog That Was Dragged Behind a Vehicle

On November 11, 2020, Milton F. Lighthall, age 50 from Oneida was arrested by the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office for Aggravated Cruelty to Animals, a New York State Agricultural and Markets Law felony. According to Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol, the Sheriff’s Office first became involved in the investigation in early October after a witness contacted the Oneida County 911 Center reporting to deputies that they came up on a vehicle pulled to the side of the road that they believed was disabled on Hill Road in the Town of Verona. The witness stated that they saw a white male that had a black, tan, and white colored dog with a cord wrapped around its neck near this parked vehicle. The witness reported that the man standing with the dog made comments about having found the dog, but then left in the vehicle after getting the cord free from the dogs neck. The witness contacted the 911 Center after the man left because he noticed that there was blood on the roadway from the dog, which at this point had ran away. When deputies arrived , they requested the assistance of the Town of Verona Dog Warden in an attempt to find the injured and bleeding dog . They were able to track the dog by its bloody footprints for a period of time, but were ultimately not able to locate her. On October 9, 2020, a man came in to the Happy Valley Animal Hospital in Verona with a badly injured dog matching the description of the one that deputies were searching for earlier. That man was later found to be the dog’s owner and he informed them that her name was Lilly. Lilly was a 6 year old female Australian Shepard. He told the deputies and investigators from the CNY SPCA, that he had been searching for her since she went missing from his home in Madison County on October 2, 2020. He said that he had seen on social media that an injured dog had been seen on Hill Road in Verona so he got a friend to take him there to look for Lilly. It was determined at the animal hospital that Lilly had serious and advanced injuries and had been suffering. Lilly ultimately had to be euthanized as a result of these injuries and was then turned over to the CNY SPCA investigators who then transported her to the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University for a necropsy. The results of that necropsy showed that the dog’s injuries were consistent with being forcefully dragged against a rough surface, most likely by a vehicle, and that her injuries also suggested that she attempted to resist being dragged. Lighthall was identified by the investigation as the man who had Lilly in his possession in the Town of Verona the day she went missing. He was also identified as an associate of the dog’s owner who had been at his residence earlier that day and days prior. Lighthall was taken into custody in the Town of Lincoln, Madison County and transported to the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office for arrest processing. Because this offense is one that monetary bail cannot be set on, he was issued an appearance ticket returnable to the Town of Verona Court at a later date.