WHP trooper pleads not guilty to animal cruelty

SUBLETTE COUNTY – On the fourth very hot day of a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper’s absence for seven to 10 days to attend training, a deputy investigated an overheated dog almost out of water and recommended a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge.

The charge was filed Nov. 4 against Richard J. Morrison, who lives on East Shoshone Trail.

On June 17, Sublette County Deputy Krystal Mansur responded to a call from WHP Lt. Klief Guenther, who drove past Morrison’s house and thought the thick-coated German shepherd was dead.When it stood up, he put the panting dog in his air-conditioned vehicle – it was 82 degrees at 5:18 p.m., according to the deputy’s affidavit.

The deputy learned that Morrison left for training on June 13 and planned to return June 20 or 22, it says. Although the dog had food, there was barely enough water left for that day and it had no protection from the sun, she noted. The area and kennel were covered with feces.

Morrison said he’d never had a problem before and no one complained with leaving her like that for three or four days. When working in Wamsutter he can throw the dog in the basement, the affidavit says.

Animal control officer Monte Miles took the dog to a nearby vet clinic. Mansur checked daytime high temperatures while Morrison would be gone and found they were close to or above 80 degrees, the affidavit says.

Because of Morrison’s working connections with county agencies, Sublette County Attorney Mike Crosson handed the investigation over last summer to Sweetwater County for investigation.

Special prosecutor Loretta Howieson filed the charge in Sublette County Circuit Court.

Morrison hired an attorney and entered a written not guilty plea before his Nov. 15 arraignment. The case will be set for trial.

The maximum penalty for the first offense of animal cruelty is six months in jail and $750 fine. A second offense is a high misdemeanor with up to a year in jail and $5,000 fine.