RIVESVILLE, W.Va. — A 35-year-old Rivesville man has been charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty one week after his dog Winston was found in a ditch.

Brittany Murray/WV MetroNews

Winston is pictured eight days after being found in a ditch.

Rivesville Police arrested Justin Lancianese Thursday.

According to Animal Control Officer T.J. Van Pelt, Winston was found around 6:30 a.m. on July 31 by a man walking his Saint Bernard, who found a small zip-up cooler bag along an access road behind the power plant in Rivesville.

His dog Winston was in the zipped-up bag, Van Pelt said.

Winston was immediately taken to the Marion County Humane Society, who then contacted Animal Control. Van Pelt said his department worked in conjunction with Chief Roger Cunningham with the Rivesville Police Department.

Authorities were lucky enough to receive tips on the matter, and upon further investigation, a CVS card was discovered inside of the cooler bag in which Winston was found.

The misdemeanor charge can carry up to a six-month sentence in jail for Lancianese, as well as a fine between $300 and $2,000. Van Pelt said the animal cruelty charge is not considered a felony because he did not put the dog in the bag for his own amusement, he did not mutilate the dog, and the dog did not die.

Van Pelt said it’s hard to grasp what may lead an individual to do such an act to a helpless animal, when instead all he had to do was call the humane society.

“People don’t reach out to the right people,” he said. “That guy was claiming it is somebody else’s dog and his family wouldn’t help him, but it was at his residence and he was caring for it. it is his responsibility.”

However, he and the staff of the Marion County Humane Society are grateful that justice has been served for Winston.

“It’s not something that we get to do very often, lot of times hard to prove ownership of some dogs,” Van Pelt said.

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