ALTON, IL (KTVI) - Emmanuel Gutierrez was sick to his stomach when he saw a puppy being dragged by a leash along an Alton sidewalk.
"At first I thought it was a stuffed animal," said Gutierrez. "It just didn't seem possible."
Alton police say the dog was real and its owner, 38-year-old Michael Thomas, is now charged with animal abuse.
Hope Animal Rescues helped place the puppy in a foster home until the dog is available for adoption. They named the puppy, Harper.
The dog has visible sidewalk burns. Jackie Spiker is with Hope Animal Rescues and says the worst of the abuse was exhaustion the dog suffered while continually being dragged.
Police say Thomas claims a vet told him that was how to train the puppy.
"She was completely motionless," said Spiker. "She was suffering from dehydration overheating, and exhaustion."
Gutierrez says the animal tried to stand up with one paw but then collapsed several times as the owner repeatedly dragged her along the sidewalk.
Eventually Gutierrez confronted the owner but says that only made matters worse.
"He actually picked her up off all fours and then proceeded to drop her on the ground and he did that multiple times."
There can be a fine line between correction and cruelty but Spiker and Gutierrez say this was a clear-cut case of abuse.
Spiker suggests new dog owners train their puppies with tugs and treats.
"We recommend people put the collar and the leash on them in the house and drop it and let the puppy walk around with it," said Spiker. "They'll get used to the weight and they won't freak out much when you go to walk them."
She hopes this case will serve as an example and wishes animal cruelty brought about tougher penalties.
"I just wish there were more tools available to the general public to educate people on how to care for their pets," said Spiker.
She said Harper should make a full recovery. The dog is being cared for at an undisclosed location.
Thomas did call FOX 2 and said, "The witness was wrong." He says he did not abuse the dog. The dog walked on his own and was tired and he was just trying to pick him up and carry him home. He is determined to clear his name.