The controversy began when a screenshot of a Snapchat message was circulated on social media among students on Tuesday, Sept. 5. The image shows a young woman smiling and holding a dachshund dog by its tail, with the dog hanging upside-down.
Capt. Mark Bennett of the Sheriff’s Office said the incident occurred at about 1:30 a.m. Monday.
The dog, a purebred mini-dachshund, is named Diesel.
Several posts about the picture were published on GVSU’s official Facebook page, and many students tweeted their outrage.
“We have confirmed this incident happened off-campus. GVSU does not condone this behavior,” the university tweeted.
Several people identified the woman as student Gillian Nemeth. Nemeth responded to The Sentinel’s request for comment with a written statement, confirming she was the woman in the photograph.
“On Sunday, Sept. 3, I made a very poor decision, for which I profusely apologize,” Nemeth said in the statement. “Please know that I would never intentionally hurt any animal, especially my own dog.”
Nemeth said Diesel was a gift from her parents, and that “he goes everywhere with me.” She said on the night the photo was taken, she was telling her friends about the dachshund breed’s hunting techniques.
“I told the group that a dachshund’s tail has two purposes: to be seen more easily in long grass and to help haul the dog out if it becomes stuck in a hole while hunting rabbits,” she said. “To illustrate the strength of a dachshund’s tail, I held Diesel by the tail. That was very poor judgment on my part.”
Acting Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Stephen Glass said there is a section of the GVSU student code relating to animals, but mostly centers around supervision and care. Because the incident occurred off-campus, however, Glass said it falls into a “gray area.”
“We don’t have a specific policy that says something about if this happens off-campus, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a consequence,” he said.
Even if the dean of students office is unable to find a student code violation, Glass said his office will be addressing the behavior displayed in the photo. He also warned students to think before posting about the incident on social media.
In her statement, Nemeth said she is taking Diesel to the vet to make sure he was not injured during the incident.
“I understand what I did was wrong and nothing like this will ever happen again. Please know that I honestly did not believe I was injuring Diesel in any way that evening,” she said. “I would like to personally apologize to my family, Grand Valley State University, and to those that I have offended.”
Bennett said the dog appeared uninjured and was acting normally when observed by officers.