Man sentenced for animal torture, arson after setting dog on fire

Jul 18, 2022, 9:32 AM | Updated: 9:50 am
Dixie the dog is pictured. She was the dog set on fire by Busico....
FILE: The family of a dog that police say was tortured says they had to put her down. Photo credit: Trista Dawn Heywood.

SALT LAKE CITY — Last Wednesday a judge sentenced a Tooele man to one to 15 years in prison for arson and up to five additional years for torturing an animal. 41-year-old Michael Paul Busico was convicted of arson and torture of a companion animal in May after setting a dog on fire in 2021.

In a press release on Friday, Salt Lake County Animal Services expressed satisfaction with the sentencing. 

“The outcome of this case is a huge win for pets in Utah. This is a step in the right direction and emphasizes that animals cannot be tortured to manipulate and hurt other humans. Salt Lake County Animal Services hopes that these strict penalties will deter future animal and domestic abuse cases,” said Salt Lake County Animal Services Division Director Talia Butler.

The press release said that Dixie, the dog Busico attacked, was a 4-year-old Red Heeler. Animal Services said she suffered second and third-degree burns in the attack and had to be euthanized due to her injuries.

Dixie’s owner, Trista Heywood, is Busico’s ex-girlfriend’s daughter. Last year Heywood said she believed Busico hurt Dixie as revenge for the breakup between him and her mother.

Heywood previously said, “I just hope he rots for doing something like this because if [he] could do it to an animal, he could have done it to my baby.”

According to court documents, Busico’s sentences will run consecutively, meaning he could serve up to 20 years in prison for his crimes.

Related: Keeping pets safe during firework season

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Man sentenced for animal torture, arson after setting dog on fire