Florida

Former police chief accused of starving, mistreating dogs

In the yard of a Miami Gardens house, authorities discovered two German shepherd mixes named Lady and Thug, their bodies severely emaciated, skin cracked and bleeding, most of their teeth missing, their eyes oozing.

Prosecutors call it animal abuse. Their owner was not unfamiliar with the law — he used to be Opa-locka’s police chief.

Prosecutors have now charged Ronald Wilson, 65, who was fired in 2002 from the police department of the perpetually troubled city. In a court appearance last week, Wilson pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of animal cruelty with intent to injure or kill.

Wilson, who later worked as a state insurance-fraud investigator before retiring, voluntarily surrendered the dogs to Miami-Dade Animal Services.

“He’s a really nice guy, very honorable,” said his defense lawyer, Sky Smith. “He has tremendous guilt over what he’s charged with.”

The dogs are now recovering, albeit slowly, at Dezzy’s Second Chance Animal Rescue, a five-acre animal sanctuary in Palm Beach County.

Lady has put on weight and is regaining her fur after surgeries to remove 28 growths from her body. But she needs a second eye surgery later this month — and the animal rescue says it has no money to foot the nearly $4,000 bill.

Thug, however, isn’t faring so well. X-rays revealed he had two bullets lodged in his body and had suffered broken bones. “They didn’t heal properly,” a rescue spokeswoman said. “He can barely walk. It’s heart wrenching.”

Wilson in 2000 was named police chief of the Northwest Miami-Dade city that was plagued with corruption, mismanagement and drug-and-gang violence. During his tenure, the department was in such disarray that state authorities recommended Miami-Dade County assume control of the force.

He was fired in 2002 after the election of Mayor Myra Taylor, who still holds the position but is under scrutiny amid a wide-reaching federal corruption probe that has already netted the arrests of several city officials.

Wilson had largely remained out of the spotlight until April, when a neighbor called Animal Rescue to report he could see the two suffering dogs through a hole in the home’s fence.

Citing the emergency, Miami Gardens police removed the dogs while Wilson was out of town on a cruise. A county investigator later caught up with Wilson; when asked the last time the animals went to a veterinarian, he replied: “A long time ago,” according to an arrest warrant.

“Mr. Wilson had no explanation why the two dogs were in horrible physical condition,” county animal services investigator Lisa Yambrich wrote in her report.

A medical exam found Lady and Thug had “no discernible body fat” and were missing all of their incisor teeth. The rest were fractured. “The fractured teeth and root exposure is painful for both dogs,” Assistant State Attorney Kathleen Hoague wrote in an arrest warrant.

It is unclear how the bullets came to be fired at Thug.

A county veterinarian determined that the dogs “have been deprived of necessary nutrition, hydration, medical evaluation and treatment,” according to the warrant.

No trial date has been set yet.

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