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Mental health issues could be involved in animal cruelty case

DANVILLE -- An owner is accused of hanging his dog from a tree. Ryan Brigman is charged with aggravated cruelty to an animal.
DANVILLE -- An owner is accused of hanging his dog from a tree. Ryan Brigman is charged with aggravated cruelty to an animal. WCIA-3's Anthony Antoine talked to Brigman's brother and has his story.

The family is hurting. They haven't talked to him since his arrest, but they say the incident doesn't tell the whole story of who he really is. The brother of Ryan Brigman didn't want to show his face, but he wanted to talk about his brother.

"He's not a violent guy. He's not a bad man. He's not what everybody is making him out to be. He was an animal lover. The dog has bit me. It bit his 3-year old son before. It bit his girl. It bit him."

Brigman lives here. His ex-girlfriend recently moved out and took his son with her.

"The man has lost his girl, his kids. She served him a restraining order saying, 'look, you can't see your kid.' He can't read or write. He's been in mental institutions. He was in two or three of them. Our mom and dad died when we was young. That took a toll on him."

His brother says, with everything happening at once, he didn't know how to deal with it.

"The only reason he did that is because the dog bit him."

He's accused of hanging his mix-breed German Shepherd in the woods.

"He had no money and he couldn't get a job. If you have no source of income, you can't call the humane society to tell them, 'come get him.'"

Neighbors say this is an unfortunate situation.

"I have mixed feelings about it. Of course, my heart goes out to the dog. I'm an animal lover. I have dogs myself. When I'm reading all the stuff that is on Facebook, I feel bad for him because I know he's not this evil person they're making him out to be."

A petition is online asking for a maximum sentence of three years, but the family believes he needs some help instead.

"He did do wrong, but he don't deserve the maximum."

Brigman's ex-girlfriend works at the humane society and says he was abusive. The State's Attorney's Office say she was given a public defender and the arraignment is set for later this month.

People who want a tougher sentence for Brigman have started an online petition. They say they want 4,000 signatures. More than 1,000 people have signed it so far.

When the Vermilion County State's Attorney was asked about the petition, he commented he wouldn't ignore it, but said, each decision is made on what's appropriate.
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