Richard Piquard, 24, faces 5 years in prison if convicted of animal cruelty

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A 24-year-old Massachusetts man was charged Sunday on a single count of animal cruelty for allegedly burying his ex-girlfriend’s 17-year-old dog alive, which later resulted in the animal’s getting euthanized.

Online court records accessed by PEOPLE confirm the Northbridge Police Department arrested Richard Piquard, 24, of Whitinsville, on Sunday. He has been accused of digging a hole behind his home, placing the dog — named Chico — in it and then burying the Shih Tzu alive.

According to the Worcester Telegram, Piquard said he’d been caring for the dog for his ex-girlfriend for the last 18 months because her landlord does not permit pets.

Police allege that Piquard said he asked his ex to take the dog back several times, but that she was unable to find a home for Chico.

Piquard also allegedly told detectives the dog and his cat were not getting along, the Telegram reports.

He will be asked to enter a plea when he appears in court for his arraignment later today, court records show. Piquard was released Sunday evening after posting $1,000 cash bail, PEOPLE learns.

Piquard’s cat has been placed in his parents’ custody.

Richard Piquard
| Credit: Northbridge Police Department

The Telegram reports that Piquard sent a text message to a mutual friend saying he had buried the dog. That friend notified Piquard’s ex, who called police.

Chico was still alive when he was pulled from the ground.

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The dog was rushed to Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Grafton. Veterinarians worked to save the dog, but decided it had to be euthanized.

If convicted, Piquard faces 5 years in prison.

PEOPLE was unable to reach Piquard for comment.

“Even in my 41 years here, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Northbridge Police Chief Walter J. Warchol in an interview with the Telegram. “We’ve seen other forms of animal cruelty. Burying something alive is a little beyond the reach.”

Chief Warchol said Piquard “claimed he thought the dog was deceased” when he placed him in the ground.

It was unclear if Piquard has an attorney who could comment on his behalf.