Savage Man Appears in Court on Animal Cruelty Charges

By: Beth McDonough

The allegations are upsetting.

Rudolph Poppe, 71-year-old man from Savage, is accused of using a sledgehammer to beat his dog nearly to death at his home. On Friday, Poppe was inside Scott County District Court as a crowd protested outside.

Demonstrators said they stood up at the courthouse for a dog who couldn't stand up for herself. "We don't take this lightly at all, we don't think society does either, its extreme," said Emily Rudolph, an animal rights activist.

Millie, a golden retriever, tried to rise to her feet twice, according to court records. But the beating had been too much.

"We understand how all of these people feel," said Scott County Attorney Pat Ciliberto.

Poppe has been charged with four crimes. They include torture, cruelty, obstruction and disorderly conduct, according to the criminal complaint.

The prosecutor has seen animal cruelty cases before, but nothing like this, officials said. That's why two of the charges are felonies - the most serious crimes possible.

"The nature of what's alleged concerning the use of a hammer on a dog, the circumstances during the last part of the dog's life," rose the charges to a felony level, Ciliberto said.

Millie's life ended violently July 12. That's when neighbors reported that Poppe used a sledgehammer over and over, 15 times in all.

Poppe told police that the dog was old, could barely walk and had pooped in the house. He wanted to put Millie out of her misery, according to the complaint.

Neighbors, including small children, heard the commotion and ran over pleading with Poppe to stop. One even said he'd take Millie to the vet and put her down.

When Poppe refused, the neighbor called police, the charges said. Officers found Poppe covered in blood, and Millie, her eyes open, a plastic bag around her head, still trying to breathe. 

In court on Friday, Poppe's attorney argued that the case involves a dog - not a human - and Poppe has no criminal history.

"I don't think he's a threat, I don't," said Richard Swanson, his attorney.

Millie was hurt so bad that a vet eventually euthanized her. Poppe's attorney asked for a bail reduction. The judge refused. He remained in custody Friday afternoon.

Poppe's disabled wife has filed an order for protection against him.

A "Justice 4 Millie" page has been created on Facebook.