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June 24, 2015
by Ruth Gordon, MA, MSW, LCSW

The Other Caitlyn- Dog Abuse Explored

June 24, 2015 05:55 by Ruth Gordon, MA, MSW, LCSW

While much of the news coverage in June has focused on the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner transgender issue, there is another Caitlyn who has received a fair amount of attention — especially from animal lovers. This Caitlyn is Caitlyn the dog. On May 27, 2015 a brown, 38 pound, 15-month-old Staffordshire/pitbull mix, named Caitlyn was found with electrical tape tightly wrapped around her muzzle in Charleston, South Carolina. This abuse exposed her to many life-threatening situations. Caitlyn’s tongue was caught between her teeth, which resulted in the blood flow to her tongue being cut off. She could not bark, eat, pant to cool herself, defend herself or pick anything up. For all intents and purposes, Caitlyn was cut off from the world. It is estimated that she suffered for 36 - 48 hours.

A man named William Leonard Dodson, 41, has been arrested and charged with felony ill-treatment of an animal. It is alleged that Dodson bought the dog from a neighbor for $20. He laughed as he told this neighbor that he didn’t like Caitlyn’s barking, so he taped her mouth shut. Caitlyn,who was chained, escaped. When she was found she was tracked through a microchip and the people who sold her were able to identify Dodson in a police photo.

The Reasons Why?

Why would an individual find it appropriate and amusing to torture a living creature in this way? Some say that there is a underdeveloped portion of the brain that influences impulse control, empathy and anger. Another theory based on ecopsychology — the study of an individual’s positive regard, or lack thereof, to nature, explains that a deficit in a connectedness and understanding of living entities can create a gap which is filled with the willingness to abuse. Yet another guess would be that there are cultural and religious beliefs about animals that can lead to mistreatment such as, dog fighting and/or animal sacrifice. Whatever the cause, the reports of innocent creatures being tortured are commonplace and widely reported in the media. On the other hand, there have been many willing to come forward and care for animals who have been cruelly and intentionally abused.

A Better Future

In Caitlyn’s case she has received cold laser treatment and spent time in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, which restored blood flow to her tongue. This medical care has ensured that Caitlyn lost no more than the tip of her tongue and her upper lip. The costs for her treatment were absorbed by Toby’s Fund, which is part of the Charleston Animal Society. The Charleston Animal Society has taken advantage of the huge amount of publicity surrounding this case to let the public know that there are many dogs who have been abandoned and placed in shelters. To this end, they are offering feewaived adoptions to those who come forward to rescue a cast-aside pet by June 20th. Kay Hyman, Charleston Animal Society’s director of community engagement has said, “She’s[Caitlyn] become a symbol of hope for people that the laws are going to change in our community, as far as the animals,”. The internet has been flooded with petitions regarding Caitlyn. A petition has been circulated by : Give a harsher penalty for the abuse, torture and attempted Murder of Caitlyn the Dog. Part of our protective response to animals is that they are easily seen as innocents. They cannot speak for themselves and the reason for aggressive behavior, when it occurs, is based in the instinct for survival.

A Connection...

This case, in particular, received a tremendous amount of attention because we usually see a damaged animal after the injury. In this case, the images of Caitlin with her muzzle taped aroused a worldwide response. There is a strong connection between domestic violence and animal abuse. Studies have shown that between 18 and 48% of women who refuse to leave an abusive home situation stay because they are afraid of what will happen to their pets. Children who have lived in an abusive home are three times more likely to engage in cruelty toward animals. Given the strong connection between domestic violence and animal abuse, it has been suggested that first responders ask children, who may be reluctant to discuss their own abuse, about pets in the home.

Looking Forward

Dr. Henri Bianucci, the surgeon who restored Caitlyn’s f ace, believes that she will have a full recovery. She is eating, drinking and barking again. A committee, appointed by The Charleston Animal Society will direct the placement of Caitlyn in a foster home. There appears to be a bright prognosis for Caitlyn’s future. The impulse toward sadism and brutality toward living creatures begins in early childhood. The victimization of those seen as being vulnerable may give a temporary sense of power to the perpetrator, but this is short-lived. Shaming the assailant only intensifies the need for power. It would seem that education on how to deal with extreme, overwhelming negative self-perceptions might prove to be an approach that is useful. Gratitude to those who come forward to help in troubled times. 


Gaton, L. (2015, June 9). Retrieved June 10, 2015.

Munday, D. (2015, June 2). Affidavit: Caitlyn abuse suspect laughed after he taped dog’s mouth shut. Retrieved June 10, 2015

Muscal, M. (2015, June 2). Man charged with felony abuse of Caitlyn, a dog in South Carolina. Retrieved June 11, 2015, from

Understanding Animal Neglect and Cruelty. (2010). Retrieved June 10,2015.

About the Author

Ruth Gordon Ruth Gordon, MA/MSW/LCSW

A practical approach to problems encountered in daily life. A confidential and comfortable atmosphere in which we will use humor to help you gain perspective on current concerns. Enhance your skills for creative problem solving.

Ruth Gordon has a clinical practice in Naples, FL

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