Arbutus man charged with animal cruelty after dog, Oscar, dies of hypothermia

The owner of a dog that died in Arbutus between Dec. 30 and Jan. 1 has been charged with three counts of animal abuse, court records show.

Selvin Gnanakkan, 42, is charged with failing to provide his dog, Oscar, with veterinary care, proper nutrition and shelter, prosecutor Adam Lippe, heads the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Animal Abuse Unit, said in an interview today.

Gnanakkan is also charged with making two false reports to police officers during the investigation into Oscar’s death.

The date of the chow chow mix’s death is not definitive because Gnanakkan, his owner, said in January that he was not home between Dec. 30 and Jan. 1.

The dog’s death sparked viral outrage on social media after a neighbor posted a photo of the dog lying in the yard in sub-freezing temperatures.

A necropsy found that Oscar died of hypothermia, Lippe said.

The dog also had severe arthritis and was underweight, with visible ribs and signs of muscle wasting, Lippe said. He added that the dog had not been to a veterinarian in some time — its most recent rabies certificate, he said, expired in 2016.

In January, Gnanakkan said in an interview that the dog had died from old age. Gnanakkan said the dog was almost 15 years old. Lippe, however, said veterinary records show it was only 12 years old.

Gnanakkan said that the dog had a thick coat and was an “outdoor dog,” and along with a second dog he owned, had access to a doggy door to go inside if they wanted.

But Lippe said the necropsy showed that the dog had been undernourished in the days leading up to its death.

Animal Services logged more than a dozen complaints going back to 2014, alleging that the two dogs that lived at Gnanakkan’s address were being mistreated or left outside without shelter.

Gnanakkan said in January that Animal Services had contacted him multiple times, telling him to bring his dogs inside, but that the dogs “go right outside again.”

Lippe said that Gnanakkan is charged with making false statements to officers on two separate occasions.

In one instance, Lippe said, soon after Oscar’s death, Gnanakkan told an officer that both his dogs were safe and alive in Virginia.

The second false statement Lippe alleges happened when Gnanakkan gave a statement to police last week and told them he had recently taken Oscar to a veterinarian in Arizona. The veterinarian in question, Lippe said, denied ever seeing Gnanakkan or his dog.

The three animal abuse charges are misdemeanors, each with a maximum penalty of 90 days in prison and a $1,000 fine. The charges of false statements, also misdemeanors, could each result in up to six months in prison and a $500 fine.

No attorney was listed for Gnanakkan in court records. Gnanakkan declined to comment.

The widespread outrage over the incident inspired Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the area, to co-sponsor a bill with Councilman David Marks that would require police to investigate animal abuse cases.

Then, last Thursday, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced Baltimore County was forming an animal abuse unit within its police department to investigate allegations of animal cruelty.

Marks said he and Quirk have been working on the bill for a few months, with the help of animal welfare activists. Even though Kamenetz is now implementing part of the bill by moving animal abuse investigations from Animal Services to the police department, Marks said they’ll still move forward with the bill.

The bill, which Quirk and Marks planned to introduce in today’s legislative session, would also require pets to be brought inside during “adverse environmental conditions.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Pam Wood contributed to this article.

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