ST. JOSEPH — A man who is accused of conspiring with another man to give false information to police after his dog bit a little boy has been bound over for trial.

And the boy’s father has pleaded guilty to making a false report of a misdemeanor.

Douglas Essig, 55, is scheduled to be tried in December on charges of owning or possessing a dangerous animal causing serious injury, and conspiracy to make a false report of a felony. He faces a maximum penalty of four years in prison if convicted as charged.

Elex Dubar, the father of 3-year-old Bentley Dubar, testified at a preliminary hearing for Essig on Monday before pleading guilty in his own case, which is a 93-day misdemeanor. He was sentenced by Berrien County Trial Court Judge Angela Pasula to six months’ probation and ordered to have no contact with Essig.

Meanwhile, the dog, named Logan, is being held by Berrien County Animal Control. Essig said outside the courtroom that he is an Army combat veteran who served seven years and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and neuropathy. He said Logan, a 14-year-old keeshond possibly mixed with husky, is his service dog and he has had him since the dog was three months old. He said the dog has never before been aggressive or bitten anyone.

Dubar testified that on July 29 he and his son were sitting in the back of Essig’s van with the door open when the dog jumped in the van and sat down between them. He said his son yelled out “Daddy!” and was pushing past the dog into his father’s arms when the dog growled, then bit his face. The child was taken to Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph where, his father said, he had to be “put under” to receive stitches for a deep wound under his left eye and on his chin. He said scarring is likely to remain.

Bridgman police officer Cody Fischer told the court he was called to the hospital to investigate, and he called Children’s Protective Services and Berrien County Animal Control.

Dubar, in an attempt to protect Essig and his dog, told police he and his son were walking on Lake Street in Bridgman when they encountered a woman with a dog. He said his son petted the dog with the woman’s permission and, as they turned to walk away, the dog bit the child. 

Based on information provided by Essig, police put out media releases describing what turned out to be a fictitious woman and dog. That prompted tips to Bridgman police about the actual identity of the dog and its owner.

Bridgman officer Robert Cleveland said once identified, Essig was cooperative with police. 

Dubar told the court that he and Essig had conspired together to come up with the description of a fictitious dog and owner. He said Essig was afraid of losing the dog, and Dubar said he wanted to protect the pair. 

Contact: jswidwa@TheHP.com, 932-0359, Twitter: @HPSwidwa