- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Erin Battles said she knows that she is the one responsible for her best friend being hurt.

She knows that she was the one who made the decision to tie her 2-year-old pit bull, Benny, to the back of the family’s SUV when she took him outside for a bathroom break.

She knows that had she been around, she could have warned her 17-year-old sister to not drive off because Benny was still attached to the vehicle.

She knows that she could have kept him from being dragged for 1½ miles from their Westside neighborhood, leaving Benny with deep wounds and bone-exposing gashes.

She has no words to express how sorry she is, and her only wish is that he gets well and ends up in a good home.

“It’s been really hard knowing he can’t come home. He really is like my best friend,” Battles told The Indianapolis Star (https://indy.st/1xVhfCr ). “I just hope and pray for the best.”

Battles, 20, said Benny was hospitalized after the incident about 8 p.m. Oct. 9. She said Benny needed to go out, so to keep him in the yard, Battles tied his leash to the family’s Chevrolet TrailBlazer.

Battles explained that as Benny grew bigger and stronger in the year she has had him, the fences and posts on the property weren’t substantial enough to keep him from breaking free.

“We had him tied to the fence, but then he got strong enough to where he could break the fence or jump the fence. Then we put a stake in the ground because that is what animal control suggested, but he got bigger, so we moved him again,” Battles said. “We tried tying him to a post on the front porch, and that worked for a couple of weeks, but then he started pulling and twisting the post as well.”

She said Benny was put outside only for short stints to use the bathroom and get some fresh air.

“He used to sleep in bed with me every night,” she said. “He was definitely a house dog. We didn’t leave him out.”

Searching for a temporary solution to keep Benny from getting loose, Battles turned to the TrailBlazer. Shortly after tying Benny outside, her younger sister returned home from work and decided to take the SUV to get dinner.

Battles said her sister told her that she didn’t see or hear Benny at the rear of the vehicle before she pulled away that night.

“We talk about it every night. It’s been so hard on her,” Battles said. “I wasn’t present when she left. I was in the bathroom taking care of a 7-month-old baby at the time. If I knew she was leaving, I could have said something to her.”

As Battle’s sister drove south on Lynhurst Drive, Benny was being dragged the entire time.

Battles said a family friend spotted the SUV. Not knowing who was behind the wheel, the friend called 911 and flashed his headlights in an attempt to stop the vehicle.

But Battles’ sister did not stop. Battles said the teen was taught to never stop for an unknown vehicle that wasn’t law enforcement.

“We live at Lynhurst and Minnesota, and she made it all the way to Lynhurst and Troy,” an emotional Battles said. “When she turned, Benny got out of his collar. He tried to run but he couldn’t. He just couldn’t.”

Once Benny was free, an onlooker ran in and picked up the injured dog. That person, along with the family friend who was trailing Battle’s sister, cornered the teen and told her what was going on.

The police arrived. So did Battles and the rest of her family.

Investigators determined that the dragging was accidental, and no one in the family was arrested as of Wednesday.

But Battles said she was issued a summons to appear in court on Nov. 24.

“Yes, I’m scared to go, but that is something that I need to do,” she said. “I know I’m the one who tied him up outside, so I have to face it.”

The night of the incident, Indianapolis Animal Care and Control officials explained that Benny could survive his injures but immediate and costly surgery would be required. Battles said her family did not have the money to get Benny the help he needed, so they surrendered custody of the dog to animal control.

The next day, Benny was moved from Animal Care and Control to VCA West 86th Street Animal Hospital by Every Dog Counts Rescue, a nonprofit rescue organization.

According to Facebook posts from Every Dog Counts and VCA, Benny, known as “Gentle Ben” in the posts, has endured hours of surgery and remains covered in bandages. It could be several months before he could be adopted.

“Seeing pictures of him up and walking … it gave me tears of joy,” Battles said. “I just want to thank them for all their hard work.”

___

Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com

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