MT. PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - A Mt. Pleasant doctor has been charged with multiple counts of ill treatment of animals after he admitted to leaving nine dogs in his car while he went to work, resulting in their deaths.
According to an incident report, police were called out to Mount Pleasant Emergency Vet Monday in reference to a report of animal abuse. Staff told officials an unknown man brought six dogs that he believed were passed out to the vet to be examined. It was determined the dogs had been dead for some time, as rigor mortis had already set in on five of them.
Vet staff directed the man to a local crematory, and then called police "as they believed the animals succumbed to their injuries as a result of ill treatment," an affidavit states.
Mt. Pleasant police were able to track down the suspect, later identified through employment records at East Cooper Hospital as 64-year-old Charles A. Bickerstaff.
Bickerstaff told detectives he took his 8 or 9-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel "Butler," along with eight other dogs of the same breed, to work with him Monday. He put the nine dogs in five animal carriers and placed them in the rear of his vehicle, a Ford Explorer.
An affidavit states the doctor left the nine dogs in his car without air conditioning or food and water in the hospital parking lot while he went in to work at East Cooper Hospital. The dogs were unattended in the car for over three hours, during which time the outside temperatures ranged from 73.4 degrees to 82.4 degrees, with the heat index peaking at 90.0 degrees.
Police say the nine dogs were eventually found unresponsive and confirmed dead by a veterinarian. Affidavits identified the dogs as 4-year-old Shelby, 4-year-old Madeline, 2-year-old Drayton, 5-year-old Katie, 5-month-old Money, 11-month-old Lucinda, Butler (between 8 and 9 years old), Freddie (between 8 and 9 years old) and Willis (between 8 and 9 years old).
Bickerstaff has been charged with nine counts of ill treatment to animals. His bond was set Wednesday morning at $90,000.
The Charleston Animal Society released a statement on the incident, warning of the dangers that heat poses for animals, as well as touching on the potential punishment for Bickerstaff.
"If the defendant is found guilty, we believe the maximum penalty should be applied by the judge in this case," said Charleston Animal Society CEO Joe Elmore.