OUR BEST FRIENDS

whs-logo

The Sergei Foundation

shelterpet_logo

The Animal Rescue Site

B-more Dog

aldflogo

Pinups for Pitbulls

philadoptables

TFPF_Logo

Mid Atlantic Pug Rescue

Our Pack, Inc.

Maine Coonhound Rescue

Saving Shelter Pets, Inc.

mabb

LD Logo Color

Tag: circuit court

Therapy dog comforts Dr. Nassar’s victims

prestonleashes1

There’s a dog sitting outside the Michigan courtroom where 144 victims of former Olympic gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar are reading statements on how they were impacted by the sexual abuse they say he put them through.

The 2-year-old Labrador retriever’s job? To bring those victims some comfort before and after their testimony.

Preston, a therapy dog, sits in the hallway of the Ingram County Circuit Court in Lansing and makes himself available to the victims, ABC News reported.

“Having Preston here has just been a joy,” said Samantha Ursch, 29, who testified last week about abuse by Nassar in 2011 while she was a gymnast at Central Michigan University. “He is a comfort, especially for a lot of us that have pets at home,” she added. “I’m away from my two dogs so having him here has been amazing and comforting.”

nassarleashes1The statements are part of a sentencing hearing for Nassar, who has pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual misconduct in Ingham County.

Nassar, who worked at Michigan State University, faces a sentence of 40 to 125 years.

He has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal child pornography charges.

Preston usually has permission to sit inside Ingham County courtrooms when the prosecutor or family of victims request his presence. Usually he sits at the side of children or adults victimized by sexual abuse as they testify.

In the Nassar sentencing hearing, because the courtroom is so crowded with spectators, he is sitting in the hallway.

“This is the first time we’ve taken the approach of being in the hallway,” his handler, Ashley Vance said of the high-profile Nassar case. “It’s a really nice break for people to come out and have that comfort and support …I’ve seen people just kind of swarming him. [He offers] silent, nonjudgmental support and it’s just calming.”

aly-raismanleashes1Vance said the state’s attorney general’s office requested Preston’s presence during the hearing.

The dog works for the Small Talk Children’s Assessment Center in Lansing, where he began as a therapy dog in September 2016. He works both in courtrooms and at the children’s advocacy center, where children are interviewed by police and prosecutors after reports of abuse.

“Preston is providing a lot of unconditional love and comfort to some people who really need it right now,” said Alex Brace, executive director of Small Talk. “It’s very much about healing and providing hope to survivors of sexual assault and physical abuse.”

The statements from victims continued all day yesterday as they sometimes tearfully, sometimes angrily described the impact he had on their lives. Aly Raisman, one of the multiple Olympic gymnasts who say they were molested by Nassar, delivered her statement in court last week.

(Top photo by Chris Haxel / Lansing State Journal; photos of Nassar, Raisman by Brendan McDermid / Reuters)

$1.26 million awarded to family of dog shot and killed by police officer in Maryland

vern

A jury has awarded $1.26 million to a Maryland family whose dog was shot and killed by police in 2014 — the largest award ever in the U.S. for such a case, according to the law firm that represented the family.

According to a press release from the Hansel Law firm in Baltimore, the verdict came after a three-day trial in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County.

“The duty to serve and protect extends to our animal family members as well,” said Cary J. Hansel, the attorney for Michael Reeves of Glen Burnie.

Reeves’ four-year-old retriever, Vern, was shot by an officer responding to a burglary call in Reeves’ neighborhood.

Anne Arundel County police officer Officer Rodney Price claimed he was attacked by Vern, but forensic evidence presented at the trial led the jury to conclude otherwise.

vern2Vern was a Chesapeake Bay retriever. The breed is the state dog of Maryland.

The officer encountered the dog in the family’s front yard, and the officer said the dog barked and ran toward him.

During the trial, the officer admitted that the dog did not bite or injure him before he fired his weapon. The officer also said no other steps were taken to deal with the dog before the dog was shot two times, the Capital Gazette reported.

A necropsy performed at the request of Anne Arundel County police showed that one bullet entered the dog’s sternum, and another bullet entered the dog’s side, at a time when the dog’s body was perpendicular to the gun.

Attorney Hansel said that evidence contradicted Price’s testimony regarding how the shooting occurred.

An internal investigation by the police department earlier determined the dog had behaved aggressively. Price remains with the police department.

The jury found that Price was not attacked by the dog, that the shooting violated Reeves’ constitutional rights, and that it was committed with gross negligence.

Reeves got Vern in 2009 and took a year off work to train him. He declined to comment after the verdict.

The $1.26 million verdict includes $500,000 in monetary damages and $760,000 in damages for the anguish caused by the shooting.

The firm says the award was the largest ever in a case of a dog shot and killed by a police officer.

The Department of Justice estimates that about 10,000 dogs are shot by law enforcement officers every year in the United States.

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

nala

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.”

Maryland man pleads guilty to throwing teacup Chihuahua off bridge

A man who threw a four-pound teacup Chihuahua named Zoey off a bridge in Maryland has entered a guilty plea, avoiding a trial scheduled to begin this week.

David Michael Beers, 35, of Brunswick , faces a maximum of 4 1/2 years in prison — three years for animal cruelty and 18 months for theft of the dog.

Judge G. Edward Dwyer Jr. has scheduled sentencing for June 7, giving him time to review a psychological evaluation of Beers. At that time, he will hear from Zoey’s owner, the Frederick News-Post reported.

During a hearing yesterday in Frederick County Circuit Court, Assistant State’s Attorney Colleen K. Swanson said she will seek some priosn time for Beers, to be followed by three years of probation. Swanson also wants Beers to complete an anger management program.

Beers was scheduled to go on trial today, but he instead entered a guilty plea.

Beers told investigators he got angry when the dog’s owners ordered him off their property, on which he had stopped in his car to use his cell phone. He left, but came back later and grabbed the dog, throwing it over a Catoctin Creek bridge as he drove home. The dog was never found.

Jury wants 10-year sentence for dogfighter

A jury in Richmond has found Richard E. Robinson guilty and recommended a 10-year prison sentence — the longest prison term in Virginia’s history for a dogfighting conviction.

The jury deliberated two hours yesterday to reach its verdict, only 40 more minutes before coming back with a recommendation of 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Robinson, 32, was found guilty of three felonies and one misdemeanor related to a dogfighting operation at his South Richmond home.

Richmond prosecutors and animal-control authorities said they are unaware of any dogfighting sentences in Virginia longer than four years. The 10-year sentence, if upheld by Circuit Court Judge Beverly W. Snukals, would be twice as long as any handed down in the state, and more than five times longer than Michael Vick’s federal sentence. Formal sentencing is scheduled for March 5.

The conviction and sentence recommendation came after prosecutor Alex Taylor introduced evidence from the property where Robinson lived with his mother, including heavy chains that had been tied around the necks of dogs to help them build strength.

One of the chains weighed 52 pounds — more than the dog to whom it was attached. The prosecutors brought the chain to court in a red plastic bucket, and while arguing for a lengthy sentence, Taylor carried the pail over to the jury box and dropped it with a thud.

“This,” he said, “is no way to treat man’s best friend.”

Read more »

Judge upholds shelter’s pit bull adoption ban

 
“Virginia may be for lovers, but Loudoun County isn’t the place for dog lovers.”

That’s the conclusion of an animal welfare legislative analyst in light of a Loudoun County judge’s ruling that the county can ban pit bull adoptions — despite a Virginia law to that ensures the right to own a pit bull.

“This is a dark day for shelter dogs in our nation,” said Ledy VanKavage, of Best Friends Animal Society.  “Throughout the land, cities and states are rejecting breed discriminatory laws and this decision embraces profiling.”

The judge’s May 21 ruling ended the nearly two-year battle over the county’s no-adopt policy on pit bulls.

In a 13-page opinion, Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Burke F. McCahill sided with the county, ruling that banning the adoption of pit bulls does not break state or local laws, the Loudoun Times reports. The ruling came after a two-day trial May 5 and 6.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by Loudoun resident Ronald Litz in 2007 after he tried to adopt a pit bull from the county animal shelter. He was told the shelter did not allow pit bull adoptions.

Of the judge’s May 21 decision, Litz said, “If the judge doesn’t want to enforce Virginia law, there’s nothing I can do about it.” Litz had argued that the county was denying him the right of ownership of a pit bull, which is against Virginia law.

McCahill disagreed, saying that while state law may give county residents the right to own pit bulls, there is no right to adopt one.

Effectively, the sentence is a death penalty for any pit bulls who end up in Loudoun’s animal shelter and go unclaimed by owners.

Read more »