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Tag: animal cruelty

Baltimore police officer who cut dog’s throat is found not guilty of all charges


There was no justice for Nala in Baltimore this week.

A Baltimore Circuit Court judge on Thursday acquitted a former city police officer charged with animal cruelty, misconduct and mutilating an animal after he slit the seven-year-old Shar-Pei’s throat in the summer of 2014.

Judge Melissa M. Phinn said the state did not present adequate evidence that proved Jeffrey Bolger, 50, was responsible for the death.

That despite the fact he pulled out a knife and drew it across the throat of a dog already restrained by a catchpole — after uttering, at least according to one witness, “I’m going to gut this thing.”

Phinn noted that the verdict might not be popular, but said the evidence indicated the officer was acting in the interest of public safety and putting the dog out of it’s misery.

She also noted that Maryland’s Chief Medical Examiner David R. Fowler testified that the dog likely was dead before her throat was cut.

Phinn said that Bolger would not have the expertise to know the dog was already dead when he slit its throat.

Bolger’s attorneys — attempting to cover all the bases — had argued both that the dog was already dead and that Bolger was attempting to euthanize the dog in the most humane way possible.

“Rather than have a dog suffer needlessly, a dog that was going to be tested for rabies, he decided to make an incision,” said Bolger’s attorney, Steven H. Levin, said as he left the courthouse with his client on Thursday.

An incision???

bolgerApparently, at least according to the defense arguments the judge bought, Bolger — or should we call him Dr. Bolger — decided to euthanize an already subdued dog he wasn’t sure was dead or alive out of the goodness of his heart with his trusty pocket knife.

Contrary to the state medical examiner’s findings, a necropsy performed by a doctor working for the city’s animal control determined a cut artery led to the dog’s death.

The state medical examiner said those findings were faulty, and while some witnesses said they heard the dog whimper and that her eyes remained opened before Bolger cut her, the medical examiner testified that both signs are not uncommon even after death.

The judge noted that, while one witness said they heard Bolger say, “I’m going to gut this thing,” another person within earshot did not recall him use the phrase.

Prosecutor Paul O’Connor had argued the Bolger had no reason to slit the dog’s throat, saying she was already restrained when Bolger cut her.

Bolger’s attorneys argued that the officer did not have proper equipment to sedate the dog, that the dog choked “itself” to death while on the pole, and that Bolger used the knife to protect the public.

Both that pole and Nala’s collar “disappeared” long before the trial started.

Nala escaped from her yard last year and was spotted roaming the streets of a Highlandtown neighborhood. Police were called after she bit a pregnant woman who was trying to rescue her from traffic.

Bolger had no comment to reporters at the trial’s conclusion, other than to thank his attorneys. The dog’s owner, Sarah Gossard, 30, left the courtroom in tears.

In a Facebook post Thursday, she said she was “heartbroken,” by the judge’s verdict.

“I do believe that just because this judge didn’t find the evidence sufficient, that doesn’t mean that he didn’t kill her. I don’t feel that justice was served but I can only hope that Nala’s death has raised animal cruelty awareness.”

After the trial, Bolger’s attorneys talked about their client’s suffering — that’s right, Bolger’s suffering.

Levin said the case drew nationally publicity, negatively affected his client’s life and forced him to retire early from the police department and suffered after having been suspended without pay.

State’s Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Rochelle Ritchie said her office was disappointed by the judge’s decision. “It will not deter us from pursuing and prosecuting those who commit heinous acts against animals,” she said.

Katie Flory, who heads the Mayor’s Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Commission and is director of Community Affairs for the Maryland SPCA, said she was also disappointed by the verdict.

“We are very sad and frustrated to hear that a guilty verdict was not given today. It shows us that we have a lot more work to do when it comes to the egregious acts to animals in our city,” she told the Baltimore Sun.

“We are very sad for Sarah’s family,” Flory added. “It’s not going to bring Nala back and we hoped for justice for Nala, and for her family.”

NC’s first lady supports new charges against former animal shelter director


A week after Guilford County prosecutors declined to pursue felony charges against the former county animal shelter director, Sheriff BJ Barnes was back before the cameras to announce new charges, and with a new ally at his side.

Barnes announced yesterday that former shelter director Marsha Williams has been served with five new misdemeanor citations for animal neglect.

He made the announcement with North Carolina’s First Lady, Ann McCrory, sitting next to him, and, next to her, Guilford County Board of Commissioners chairman Hank Henning.

Barnes was critical of the district attorney’s decision to not pursue felony animal cruelty charges against Williams and other two other former staff members he says were responsible for “horrendous” conditions at the shelter.

McCrory said she supports the effort and asked the district attorney to reconsider prosecution of the case.

On November 1, the district attorney’s office said there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue criminal charges against the former Guilford County Animal Shelter employees who had been charged after an investigation by the sheriff’s office.

Similar charges have been filed, and are still pending, against Williams and two other employees of the shelter in Davidson County, which was also operated by the nonprofit group United Animal Coalition.

In Guilford County, Sheriff deputies spent several months investigating allegations of animal abuse, mismanagement of funds and potential drug violations.

But officials in the district attorney’s office said the evidence to pursue cruelty charges was insufficient, showing a “systemic failure,” but pointing to no particular culprits who could be held responsible.

Sheriff Barnes voiced displeasure with that decision when it was made.

And yesterday, according to the Greensboro News & Record, he insisted the charges should be pursued, at least against the shelter director.

“Marsha Williams, as the manager, was in complete control. There was no decision made, live or die, without her being involved in the process,” he said.

Barnes also requested the cases in the two counties be consolidated, and be prosecuted in Davidson County.

McCrory, an animal rights advocate, said she’d requested to meet with Barnes to discuss the charges and show support for the case.

“This went beyond anything I’ve ever heard of in my life,” she said. “It’s basically torture. It’s beyond me that the Davidson County district attorney is going to prosecute. If that person has enough to charge and make a case … why don’t we have that in Guilford County?”

(Sheriff BJ Barnes, left, First Lady Ann McCrory, and Guilford County Board of Commissioners chairman Hank Henning; photo by Andrew Krech / Greensboro News & Record)

Woman insists taping dog’s mouth shut was joke


A Salisbury, N.C., woman insists it was just a joke when she posted a photo of her dog with her snout taped shut, but she has been charged with animal cruelty all the same.

Kimberly Ann Howell, 25, posted the photo above on Facebook, along with these words:

“I warned her. I told her I was going to teach her not to bite the baby again, even play biting. LOL. She so pidiful (sic). I can’t even make her keep it on for five minutes. LOL. She jumped up on me and was like but please mamma.”

howellAmid some critical comments, Howell took the post down, but not before someone — concerned either about the dog or the infant — tipped off county officials, who referred the matter to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, the Salisbury Post reported.

A detective questioned Howell, who insisted the dog, a young mixed breed named Leah, managed to quickly get the duct tape off her face. She also insisted the dog was not harmed.

The detective examined the dog and found her to be in good health with no other signs of abuse or neglect.

Howell, however, was charged with animal cruelty, jailed, and later released on $3,000 bond on the cruelty charge and failure to appear for outstanding traffic charges.

Leah was left in the custody of the family after the detective consulted with animal control officials about the case. Howell was told that a follow-up visit might take place to ensure the dog was being treated properly,

Since her initial post, Howell has responded repeatedly to the barrage of criticism she has been receiving online.

“Wow ok maybe I should of said I was joking when posting that,” she wrote on Facebook. “But honestly though people would know better anyone who spend (sic) a week at my house would see how spoiled and loved my dog is. Anyways guess I really didn’t think through but anyone who knows me knows when I got Leah she [was] skin and bones how (sic) that animal abusee (sic).”

(Photo of Leah from Facebook, photo of Howell from Rowan County Sheriff’s Office)

Brad Pitt dies after being left in hot truck

Brad-PittA basset hound-bulldog mix named Brad Pitt died of heat-related causes after a Georgia animal control officer picked him up and left him in his truck all day, police say.

To make matters worse, the officer claimed the dog had been been hit by a car and was dead when he found him.

The atrocious behavior and blatant lie likely would have never come to light if not for a family’s persistent efforts to find out the truth about their dog, who they named after the movie star.

Brad Pitt ran away from his home in Kennesaw in July, and the family launched an extensive search, driving around the area, posting flyers and reporting the dog missing to Cobb County Animal Control.

Animal Control employees told them repeatedly that no dog matching Brad Pitt’s description had been there.

Then a neighbor called the family and told them he had seen Brad Pitt being loaded into a Cobb County Animal Control van.

Brad Pitt’s owner, Holly Roth, called Animal Control again, and learned the dog had been found dead — at least according to the officer who picked him up, Matthew Cory Dodson. Dodson had told his supervisors the dog had been hit by a car and was dead when he found him.

Roth, doubtful of the account, continued looking for the truth.

Police investigators questioned Dodson, and he confessed to what happened, according to his arrest warrant.

dodsonDodson told police he put the dog in a compartment of his county truck around 9:40 a.m. July 18 after picking him up in the Kennesaw area. He finished his work day without bringing the dog back to the shelter.

“Failing to do so in a timely manner resulted in said dog’s death, likely from a heat related illness,” the arrest warrant states.

Dodson was charged with cruelty to animals and obstruction, both misdemeanors.

He was arrested Thursday afternoon, but released from jail on his own recognizance about an hour later. A Cobb County police spokesman said Dodson has resigned from his position.

Holly Roth said the 17-month-old basset hound and English bulldog mix had been a gift for her daughter after her elementary school graduation.

“I’m still so sick to my stomach about it,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He would’ve gotten away with it if I hadn’t been prying.”

Shelters in Guilford, Davidson counties shut down amid continuing investigation


Citing 75 incidents of animal cruelty and a “systemic failure to care for animals,” the N.C. Department of Agriculture on Monday yanked the United Animal Coalition’s license to run animal shelters in Davidson and Guilford counties.

The non-profit organization has been running Guilford County’s animal shelter since 1998, when it was hired by the county to improve conditions.

Seventeen years later, the same sort of allegations have resurfaced during continuing investigations by state and county officials as well as the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

Department of Agriculture reports mention more than 100 cases of animals receiving inadequate medical care, including a cat with a broken leg and internal bleeding that went seven days without being seen by a vet and a dog with a gunshot wound to the face who went 12 days without medical attention before being euthanized.

The former shelter director in Guilford County, Marsha Williams, was suspended with pay earlier this month. As of yesterday, that pay was halted and Williams was officially terminated under the orders of the county commissioners.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners convened an emergency meeting Monday, voting unanimously to revoke the United Animal Coalition’s contract and to place the shelter under the county’s control on an interim basis.

A letter of revocation was delivered by hand to the shelter yesterday.

“The things we’ve learned are very disturbing and unacceptable, as I know it is for the community as a whole,” Commissioner Hank Henning, the board’s chairman, said at a press conference after the county commissioner’s meeting. “Our goal is to put transparency and a culture of efficiency back into the shelter, so the community at large can get the services and the shelter that it wants and deserves.”

The N.C. Department of Agriculture has been investigating both shelters for about a month following complaints about animal care and conditions, according to the Greensboro News & Record

The Davidson County investigation began after the state agency received a complaint that a dog had arrived at the shelter with a broken back but received no veterinary care.

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency continues to investigate potential unspecified violations at both facilities.

Also still investigating are the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office and the Lexington Police Department.

“To be quite frank with you, I expect to see criminal charges come out of this,” said Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes.

Deputy County Manager Clarence Grier will serve as interim director of the Guilford County shelter, which will remain closed the rest of the week.

The facility is expected to reopen Aug. 22.

(Photo: Former Guilford County Animal Shelter director Marsha Williams; by Lynn Hey / Greensboro News & Record)

Euthanasia, or murder?

zeus1“Euthanasia” isn’t really the correct word for what animal shelters do to dogs.

When a dog is in pain, the use of the word may be apt.

When it’s not a mercy killing — but an act that takes place because a shelter is overcrowded — calling it euthanasia, as much as that may make it more palatable to the public, is a misnomer.

And it’s definitely not the word to use when a shelter worker takes their neighbor’s dog — without their neighbor’s knowledge — drives it to the shelter and gives it a lethal injection.

An animal welfare employee in Ada, Oklahoma, has has been accused of animal cruelty after allegedly doing just that.

Marteen Silas, a certified animal euthanasia technician for the Pontotoc Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), took her neighbor’s dog — a pure white Siberian Husky named Zeus — because it was chasing her livestock, according to court records.

She then allegedly drove the dog to PAWS and “immediately euthanized it with a schedule II controlled dangerous substance,” KFOR reported.

KFOR obtained a recording of a telephone conversation in which a former PAWS employee, Jim Nowlin, says Silas tells him why she killed the dog.

A voice he claims to be Silas’ is heard explaining the dog was “a punk” who was “chasing our cows, and chasing our horses.”

Two employees told investigators Silas knew the dog was her neighbor’s, and that she told employees to keep the procedure a secret.

PAWS officials said Silas is no longer employed at the shelter.

A Facebook page has since been set up, demanding justice for Zeus.

Falcons linebacker, accused of kicking Yorkie to death, waived from team

The Atlanta Falcons have waived linebacker Prince Shembo after his arrest on animal cruelty charges filed in connection with the death of his girlfriend’s Yorkshire terrier.

Shembo is accused of kicking the dog, named Dior, after she bit him.

“We are extremely disappointed that one of our players is involved in something like this. Accordingly, we have decided to waive Prince Shembo,” read a statement from the Falcons — the team Michael Vick was quarterbacking when he was arrested in connection with a dogfighting operation.

Shembo’s attorney, Jerry Froelich, who appears in the video above, said Shembo was in tears over his arrest and release from the team.

“He didn’t mean to kill the dog,” Froelich told reporters outside the Gwinnett County jail.”

princeshemboShembo, 23, was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, a felony, and released from jail after posting $15,000 bond, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

He was waived by the Falcons within two hours.

That was a far swifter reaction by the team than was the case with Vick.

He wasn’t formally released from the team for years — not until after he had served the prison portion of his sentence.

Shembo’s girlfriend — now former girlfriend –called police in April to report that Shembo had killed Dior while caring for her in his home.

The dog died shortly after she took her to an animal hospital.

The following day, she told police, Shembo made comments to her about killing the dog, and she broke up with him.

Police said Dior had significant internal injuries and the cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma.

deadyorkieThe dog had a fractured rib, fractured liver, abdominal hemorrhage, thoracic hemorrhage, extensive bruising and hemorrhage in the muscles in her front leg and shoulders, head trauma, hemorrhage and edema in lungs, hemorrhage between the esophagus and trachea, and hemorrhage in the left eye with internal injuries, police said.

Shembo, a linebacker who played at Notre Dame, was a fourth-round pick for the Falcons in 2014.

The Atlanta newspaper reported that Shembo was investigated for allegedly sexually assaulting a Saint Mary’s College freshman in his dorm room in 2010. The 19-year-old woman killed herself 10 days later by taking an overdose of the antidepressant Effexor.

“Pretty much it was an unfortunate event,” Shembo told reporters after being drafted. “My name was pretty much cleared. It’s behind me now. I just want to focus on playing football for the Atlanta Falcons.”

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