Former officer faces felony

Robert Smith
Robert Rulo III

Former Pawhuska police officer Robert Rulo III, 23, has been charged in Osage County District Court with one felony count of cruelty to animals for failing to feed his dog, or make sure the dog was fed. A not-guilty plea was entered for Rulo in a March 19 hearing, and his next court date is set for Friday.

Officer Blake Burch investigated the case for the Pawhuska police. Burch said in an affidavit that he was contacted Dec. 5, 2018, by a municipal animal shelter volunteer, who told Burch that she had received a complaint about a dog that was in bad shape in the 1100 block of E. 14th Street. The dog looked as if it had not been given food and water for an extended period. Burch found that the dog — a male Rottweiler — belonged to Rulo, who had adopted him from the shelter in March 2018.

Rulo had reportedly moved, during the summer of 2018, into an apartment where animals were not allowed, and the dog was staying at Rulo’s grandfather’s home.

Burch reportedly contacted Rulo’s girlfriend and told her that she needed to talk to Rulo about his dog’s health. Burch subsequently heard from Rulo, who reportedly asked him what was going on. Burch told Rulo that the police department had received complaints that the dog looked as if he had been deprived of food, water and shelter. Burch asked Rulo if he had checked on the dog recently. Rulo reportedly said it had been a couple of weeks since he had been to his grandfather’s house, and he thought his grandfather was taking care of him.

About three weeks after contact was made contact with Burch about the dog’s condition, Rulo reportedly surrendered the dog back to the city of Pawhuska. The dog was examined at a Pawhuska veterinary clinic. The veterinarian told Burch in a letter that the dog was “severely malnourished” and all of his ribs and other “skeletal bony prominences” were visible. “On a scale of one to five, his body condition score would be considered a one,” the veterinarian said.

The Pawhuska animal shelter volunteer said the dog weighed 48 pounds when he was surrendered. She nursed him back to health and was able to find him a new home. At the time of his adoption into a new home, on Feb. 3, the dog weighed 80 pounds, she said.

This is the second brush with the law for Rulo since last September, when he was charged with a misdemeanor count in a case that involved him and a fellow officer. In that matter, which is still pending as of this publication, Rulo is accused of false reporting of a crime.

Pawhuska Police Chief Rex Wikel told the Journal-Capital that Rulo is no longer employed by the police department.