As often as we bring you stories of police officers shooting dogs, it’s only right that we pass along news of cops who go out of their way to help one.
Seattle police officer Eric Michl went pretty far out of his way – helping to find a temporary home for the dog of a man he arrested, and driving on his day off from Seattle to Vancouver to place the dog with a foster family.
Last month, Michl pulled over a van that had changed lanes without signaling and arrested the driver, Juan Crespo, on a charge of driving under the influence. Crespo, the officer learned, also had a warrant from San Diego, where he was wanted for burglary. Also in the van was Crespo’s dog — a German shepherd named Liana — who had commited no offense.
Michl loaded her into the back of his police car and, as Crespo was being booked, drove her to the Seattle Animal Shelter.
On the way, Liana stuck her nose through the partition and licked his ear.
San Diego, it turned out, wanted Crespo extradited, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Between that attempt, which Crespo is fighting, and the local charges, it looked like it would be a while before his court cases came to a conclusion — far longer than the amount of time the Seattle Animal Shelter keeps unclaimed dogs.
That weighed on Michl. He checked with the shelter to see if it could hold Liana for the duration of Crespo’s court case. It couldn’t. That’s when Michl contacted Crespo’s defense attorney. Highly irregular. And highly cool.
“I just felt really bad that this dog and her owner would have to be separated,” Michl said. ” … Separating her from her owner would be an injustice. It wouldn’t be fair for the dog and for him.”
Working with the defense attorney, Megan Giske, Michl tried to locate someone from Crespo’s family to foster Liana, but they couldn’t find an appropriate home.
That’s when Michl turned to Facebook.
“She deserves a chance to live a full and happy life,” he wrote in a post. “If you know of anyone interested, please get a hold of me. I can provide details of her evaluation by the kennel manager.”
This past weekend, a friend of the suspect’s sister agreed to take Liana until Crespo is released.
The Seattle Animal Shelter gave Liana vaccinations and installed a microchip, waiving any fees.
He met the new foster parents at the Vancouver police station, and he reports that the friend, her two children and Liana all appeared happy with the new arrangement.
What got into Michl? And why can’t more police officers show canines that kind of compassion? We can’t answer the second question, but the Post-Intelligencer article provides some insight into the first.
In an interview, Michl spoke of his dog, Tommy, who died last last April. When Michl had to leave his son alone for nighttime patrols, Tommy, a black Lab, would sleep on his bed. Tommy died at age 8 of cancer, but the memory of him is still strong.
“Your dogs never leave you, no matter what,” Michl said.
Maybe it was that memory, or the lick from Liana while she was in the backseat. Perhaps even Crespo entered into the equation as well. Maybe, while Michl went far beyond the call of duty, it was just smart police work.
“I’m hoping once he’s out of jail he’ll remember that someone cared enough to do this for him and his dog.”
(Photos: Courtesy of Eric Michl, via Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 6th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal shelter, animals, arrest, attorney, beyond, burglary, call of duty, compassion, courts, dog, dogs, drunk driving, duty, eric michl, extradition, facebook, family, foster, german shepherd, good cop, juan crespo, law enforcement, liana, officer, pets, police, seattle, shelter, suspect, vancouver
As I’ve also said, it wouldn’t hurt to put one, or two, or three, in every prison, every facility for the elderly, every homeless shelter, every domestic abuse shelter, and any other place — from institution to group home to halfway house – where there are people who have lost hope, never learned empathy, aren’t feeling loved, need some friendship or could otherwise benefit from the curative power of dogs.
Of course, things don’t happen that quickly, or on that kind of scale. Obstacles get in the way, like bureaucracies, and liability concerns and the erroneous belief that only trained therapy dogs can provide therapy.
Considering that, a Washington DC-based non-profit organization is thinking pretty big: Within the next five years, the Pet Care Trust hopes to reach a point where it has introduced 5 million children in 100,000 classrooms to pets and the benefits they provide.
The new goal for the teacher grant program comes after the much quicker-than-anticipated growth of the program in the last couple of years.
In the 2010-11 school year, the Pet Care Trust provided 3,200 Pets in the Classroom grants. With support from Petsmart and Petco, along with rebate grants supported by independent pet stores, the number of grants increased to more than 6,000 for the 2011-12 school year. In the next five years, the trust plans to have provided 30,000 grants enabling teachers to bring pets into the classroom.
The goal of the Pet Care Trust — its board is made up mostly of representatives from the pet products industry, we should point out — is to help promote public understanding of the value of companion animals, to enhance knowledge about companion animals through research and education, and to promote professionalism among members of the companion animal community.
Pet Care Trust executive director Steve King says the Pets in the Classroom program, established in 1990, is already halfway to the new goal.
“We have reached the half-way point to this goal far sooner than any of us thought possible. It really is a remarkable achievement thanks to the Board’s foresight and the support of so many pet retailers and suppliers.”
More than 500,000 elementary and middle school students having already been given the opportunity to interact with pets on a daily basis in their classroom. and with more than 6,800 grants issued since August 1, the total since the program’s inception has risen to 15,500.
At the beginning of 2012, the program — initially available only to pre-k through 6th grade teachers — expanded to include 7th and 8th grade classrooms,
The Pets in the Classroom program benefits students by teaching them responsible, long-term pet care at an early age and providing the psychological and developmental benefits associated with the human-animal bond.
Studies have shown that caring for pets has a positive effect on children, improving school attendance and teaching children responsibility, as well as encouraging nurturing and building self esteem.
To learn more about the Pets in the Classroom grant program, visit www.petsintheclassroom.org.
(Photo: Ace, though it was done without a grant, visits a Baltimore school)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 29th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, compassion, dogs, elementary, empathy, grants, junior high, pet care trust, petco, pets, pets in the classroom, petsmart, responsibility, schools, self esteem, students, teachers
You’ll probably see a few familiar faces in this, the newest public service announcement in Baltimore’s “Show Your Soft Side” campaign.
The campaign made its debut in Baltimore last year after several instances of animal abuse in the city, some commited by children. The ads showcase athletes and celebrities cuddling the pets they love and the tagline, “Only a punk would hurt a cat or dog.”
The new announcement is a compilation of some old softies and some new ones — among them Baltimore police officer Dan Waskiewicz, who became part of the campaign this month after saving and adopting a pit bull being teased by children.
Others who have been featured include fighter John Rallo, the Ravens’ Jarret Johnson, Adam Jones of the Orioles and Tommy Lee, legendary rocker and founding member of Motley Crue.
The campaign — a project of the Mayor’s Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Committee – makes use of billboards around town, and posters hanging in juvenile justice centers and other locations where young people are likely to see them.
Tommy Lee was the first celebrity featured from outside of Baltimore, and was snagged thanks to two connections. Rallo used to be Lee’s bodyguard. And a staff member who has worked on the campaign at 98 Rock, which is helping sponsor it, also is friends with Lee.
The newest announcement features photography by Leo Howard Lubow, Amanda Safford (Dizzy Grant) Jonesy Edwards (Henry Rollins) and Myriam Santos (Tommy Lee). The video was shot and directed by Janet Mockard.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 28th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abuse, adam jones, advisory committee, animal, animal welfare, anti-abuse, athletes, baltimore, billboards, campaign, cats, celebrities, compassion, dan waskiewicz, dog, dogs, influencing, jarret johnson, john rallo, maryland, mayor's, officer, only a punk, pets, police, posters, role models, show your soft side, Tommy Lee, video, youth
As often as we report incidents that reflect law enforcement’s lack of compassion when it comes to dogs, it’s good to pass along a story like this one — about a cop in St. Louis who showed some heart.
More inspiring yet, Officer Cheryl Goede saw fit not just to seek help for the two German shepherds she found living in a car, but for their homeless human, too.
Last week, Officer Goede was investigating a call about a “suspicious vehicle” in St. Louis.
She approached the car and questioned the man inside, who had two German shepherds with him.
He didn’t immediately volunteer the information, but, as reported on Examiner.com, the man, identified as A.J. Hawk, eventually admitted he’d lost his job, then his home, and was living in his car with his dogs.
Hawk, while he went to school to become an architectural drafting artist, is now working odd jobs to pay for gas and food, and he and his dogs have been living in his car about a month.
Officer Goede is a dog-lover herself, and particularly a German shepherd lover. She puts out a Facebook page, called the German Shepherd Dog Community.
Goede didn’t haul Hawk in, or tell him to get out of town. Instead, she told him she admired him for not dumping his dogs at a shelter.
“I could never do that,” he responded. “They are my family.”
When her shift ended, she logged on to Facebook to share Hawk’s situation with her readers. And she decided to donate to him some recent winnings from a contest her own German shepherd, Kato, was in.
She also set up a Chip-In account so others could donate to Hawk and his dogs, Caesar and Houdini.
Anyone interested in making a donation can do so by either using the Chip-In, or mailing it to: PO Box 140003, St. Louis, MO 63114.
(Photos: Top, Houdini and Caesar; bottom, Cheryl Goede and Kato; From the Facebook page of the German Shepherd Dog Community)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 19th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aj hawk, animals, caesar, car, cheryl goede, chip in, compassion, dogs, donate, economy, facebook, german shepherds, help, home, homeless, houdini, job, kato, law enforcement, living, loss, lost, pets, police. officer, st. louis, suspicious, unemployment, vehyicle
Found inside a trash bag that was hurled out of a car — with BB’s under his skin and his eyeballs apparently gouged out – a miniature pinscher even some veterinarians thought would be better off dead has surprised everyone.
And touched them, too, it seems — enough to spark $17,000 in donations.
A story about Andre — a tiny dog who now bears the name of a giant — appeared in the Arizona Republic Sunday, and started out this way:
To get through the beginning, you need to know how it ends.
The beginning was Jan. 3, when Cedric Conwright, while on his afternoon walk in Tolleson, saw a car pull to the side of the road, and something thrown from its window just before it drove away.
Inside, he found a small dog in bad shape. He picked him up and took him home, and was surprised to see it could stand and drink.
Two days later, Conwright took the dog to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control in hopes of getting it medical help. They gave some thought to euthanizing the dog, estimated to be about four years old, but instead performed surgery, removing what was left of his eyes.
After two weeks, animal control started seeking a rescue group willling to take him in as a foster.
Among those responding was the Feathers Foundation, a Paradise Valley non-profit group associated with the Circle L Animal Sanctuary. The foundation raises money for the care of injured and neglected animals.
When Susy Hopkins, a Feathers Foundation member picked him up, he was thin as a rail and had green fluid leaking from his eyes sockets and down his face.
She stopped at McDowell Mountain Animal Hospital in Scottsdale, where a vet gave Andre — the name she’d given him — an examination. The vet recommended euthanasia.
Hopkins said no, and asked the vet’s office to do what they could. In addition to infected eyes, Andre was anemic and had diabetes, and under his skin were what appeared to be BB’s from a pellet gun.
Over the next few days, Andre started appearing more lively, and his rescuers went to work trying to raise money for the medical care he had gotten and would need.
Deborah Wilson, a Scottsdale gynecologist who runs the Circle L Sanctuary, set up a page for Andre on FirstGiving.com, a website where non-profits can seek donations for their causes.
While she’s posted several pleas over the years, she says she’s never seen the kind of outpouring of support there was for Andre — about $13,000.
Rescuers also set up a fundraiser at a downtown Scottsdale pizza restaurant; more than 250 people showed up and about $3,500 was raised. Feathers Foundation has announced that any excess funds will go to other animals in need.
There’s something about Andre that brings out the best in people, said Hopkins.
“People just wanted to see Andre, to hold him, to hug him,” she said. “And no matter how many people wanted to pet him, Andre never resisted. He was so calm, so gentle. It made me wonder even more why someone would treat him so badly.”
On Feb. 11, a home was found for Andre. Sandy Powers saw his story on TV. “It was love at first sight,” Powers said. “I had never adopted a rescue dog before, but I knew I wanted to care for this one.”
Andre has joined Powers’ other dog, K-Bela, a 90-pound Rottweiler mix she inherited from her brother-in-law.
Being without sight, he treads carefully, and follows voices, and once he finds a human, he’ll lean against them. “When I talk or sing a little, he stays right with me on my heels,” said Powers.
While he’s back on antibiotics for his eye infection, and getting continued treatment for diabetes, Powers hopes he will be well enough for a picnic arranged for his fans. (More information about that can be found on his Facebook page.)
As the Republic reported, the small dog’s impact has been huge.
Andre is still tiny, weighing about 9 pounds. An underdog, to be sure. But one person gave him a chance, and then another, and then another. Word got around, and soon hundreds of people were donating thousands of dollars. And instead of being a dog that cost $5,000 to save, he became a dog that raised $12,000 extra for injured and abused animals down the line.
“It’s amazing how a tiny little spirit can touch so many hearts,” Powers said.
(Photo: Pat Shannahan / the Arizona Republic)
Posted by jwoestendiek February 21st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, andre, animal control, animal cruelty, animals, bbs, car, cedric conwright, circle l animal santuary, compassion, cruelty, cruelty to animals, deborah wilson, diabetes, dogs, eyes, feathers foundation, first giving, firstgiving, found, fundraising, gouged, help, humans, maricopa county, min pin, miniature pinscher, outpouring, pets, phoenix, recovery, resilience, shot, starving, surgery, susy hopkins, thrown, tolleson, trash bag
Posted by jwoestendiek June 21st, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: aniboom, animals, benevolence, compassion, dog, dogs, dumpster, film, helping, justin lewis, pets, rescue, vancouver film school, video
This video of an orangutan gently pulling a duckling out of a pond appears headed for viral status — even though no one really knows what the outcome was.
But not knowing the story isn’t stopping the media from spreading one.
The Daily Mail, for instance, reports — based on nothing more than viewing the video — that the orangutan is rescuing the duckling from drowning and seems to “kiss life into its new friend.”
But many Internet commenters note that the duckling didn’t appear in need of rescue and are wondering if, once the camera stopped taping, it became lunch.
Not even the setting is known: Some reports say it took place at a U.S. zoo, others say an unknown zoo, others say it was a Dublin zoo.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 17th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal, animal behavior, animals, compassion, daily mail, duck, duckling, journalism, lunch, myths, news media, orangutan, orangutan and duck, pond, rescue, saves, saving, video, viral, zoo
Before I show you my new place – that’s next week, when I’m done decorating — I thought I’d show you somebody else’s.
We came upon it last week, on the trip to move my furniture down south.
There’s an exit on I-95 in Virginia that Ace and I always stop at — one where I can get low-price, by Maryland standards, cigarettes; fill my gas tank; and grab a bite at the Burger King, whose guide to which sodas go best with which entrees always makes by beverage decision easier.
Then we drive a few hundred feet to the end of a big parking lot, where there’s a large grassy area, next to a copse of trees. I park at the edge of the grass, open the back of the Jeep and sit there to enjoy my picnic lunch while Ace sniffs around the empty patch of grass, takes care of business, then sits and waits for french fries to be flung his way. Or better yet, in his view, a hunk of burger, whose variations at Burger King include a Triple Whopper, and Quad Stacker. As you know, you can “Have it your way.”
The exit — Willis Road, I think it’s called, on the southern edge of Richmond – has become a tradition for us. Ace likes traditions, especially those involving meat.
Last week, with Ace in the back of the Jeep, and my friend Will following me in the rented moving truck, I had tired of music and decided to find a talker on the radio, either flaming liberal or die-hard conservative — for those are the only options — it didn’t matter.
I can’t remember his name, but I ended up with the die-hard conservative — a Rush Limbaugh wannabe, only angrier, who was jumping all over President Obama’s recent remarks about increasing taxes on the richest to assist the poorest.
Obama, it seemed, wanted to help the “less fortunate,” and you would have guessed, from the way the talk show host was saying “less fortunate” that he was smirking and putting finger quotes around it — as if he thought there was no such thing, or, if there were, that they were all sissies.
Though I had spent nearly a year without my material possessions as Ace and I traveled across America on a shoestring; though I’m not employed by anyone other than myself, though I have neither health insurance nor nest egg, I’ve never considered myself among the less fortunate (which I say without finger quotes, because only sissies make finger quotes).
Similarly, I’ve never considered myself too far removed from that group. One overnight hospital visit would probably put me in their ranks.
In our time on the road, Ace and I were homeless by choice, but frugal out of necessity, which explains why we ran into plenty of down on their luck souls – some of whom had made bad decisions, more of whom were victims of matters beyond their control, like layoffs, or foreclosures, or crime, or natural disasters, or unnatural disasters, or health issues or disabilities.
In the America of 2011, with the gap between the rich and the poor having become as extreme as our talk show hosts, I’m thankful to be in the middle, even the lower section of the middle. I plan to try and stay there until the middle disappears. Having reunited with my possessions, called in my pension (it actually came when I called) and begun setting up a new home — albeit without stainless steel appliances – I’m feeling more secure. But I’m aware of how tenuous that can be.
After stopping at our traditional Virginia picnic spot last week, I finished off my fish sandwich, accompanied by a Diet Coke – though maybe Sprite would have been a better choice — and Ace I walked around the corner, where there was a wooden fence with a small opening in it. We stepped through.
That’s where we saw this homeless encampment.
I’m not sure if it served as home for multiple people, or just one, but nobody was at the camp amid the trees, just off I-95, where a half dozen mattresses and tarps were scattered, clothes hung on tree limbs and — speaking of accessories that pop — empty sardine cans, their tops peeled back, served as ash trays.
I was wandering around taking pictures, when a medium-sized, copper-colored dog came running out from behind a mattress that was leaning against the fence. Barking furiously, he headed straight at me, then stopped and stared, as if daring me to take another step in his direction.
I tried to fling him some french fries, but every time I threw one, he retreated — only slightly though, never leaving his position amid the modest little camp. That seemed to be his mission — to protect the few meager belongings that were there, to guard over them until his human came back from collecting aluminum cans, or panhandling at the exit ramp, or maybe even working a real job.
The dog acted like it was Fort Knox, and he was a German shepherd.
They are able to show respect, loyalty and compassion to the poorest of souls — in a way Republicans, at least the loudest ones, are rarely able to master. Some Democrats aren’t that great at it, either. I’m not always too good at it myself. How much have I contributed to Japanese tsunami victims? Zero. I need to save up and buy a clothes dryer.
We humans are far more selfish than dogs. Then again dogs aren’t raised on TV ads and shiny magazines that bombard them with images of things that manipulative marketing types persuade them they must have.
I thought about calling the conservative radio talk show host, even though he sounded like a very nasty fellow who would interrupt me. ”Why is it we make a greater investment in accumulating stuff than in our fellow humans?” I wanted to ask. “When did war become patriotic and helping people become unpatriotic?”
And which soda really does pair best with the fish sandwich?
Posted by jwoestendiek April 20th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, burger king, compassion, conservatives, democrats, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, encampment, greed, helping, homeless, hosts, less fortunate, liberals, mattresses, obama, pairings, patriotic, people, pets, poor, possessions, poverty, radio, republicans, rich, richmond, road trip, sardine can, selfishness, soda, stacker, stuff, talk shows, taxes, travels with ace, virginia, whopper, willis road
Ace made a big impression on pre-k and kindergarten students at Baltimore’s Lakewood Elementary School yesterday, dazzling them with tricks, soaking up their pats and hugs and swearing in two classrooms whose students took the “Oath of Kindness,” a pledge to be kind to animals.
How this latest stop in our continuing travels came to pass was actually pretty simple, and amazingly bureaucracy-free.
A teacher friend asked if we’d visit. We said yes. She got the necessary clearances and, before you know it, a 130-pound Rottweiler-Akita-chow-pit bull mix was being snuggled, stroked and hugged by a bunch of children half his size.
Karma Dogs, the therapy dog organization of which Ace is a member, came up with two more volunteers who visited the school along with Ace and me – Janet Shepherd and her dog Tami, and Kathryn Corrigan and her dog Puddy.
Together, we covered six classrooms in just over an hour, administering the oath, passing along some basic dog safety tips and stressing the importance of treating animals kindly.
Karma Dogs developed the ”Oath of Kindness” after the death of Phoenix, a pit bull puppy who was set on fire by Baltimore teenagers in the summer of 2009 — not the first, or last, case of its type in the city.
The oath reads: “I … pledge always to be kind to animals. I promise never to hurt an animal, be it dog or cat, furry or fat. I promise to tell my friends to be kind to animals and if I see an animal that is being hurt I will tell an adult right away. Scaly or slimy, feathered or blue, to this promise I will be true.”
After reciting the pledge, the children receive a certificate,which is “pawtographed” by the dog, in this case, Ace. The hope is that children who have openly declared they will not be violent towards animals will remember that, tell their friends and inform adults when they see an animal being taunted or abused.
Of the students Ace and I appeared before, about a dozen raised their hands when I asked who was afraid of dogs. But only one declined a chance to pet Ace. Several more had some trepidations, but those seemed to melt away as they watched the other children interact with him.
They were eager to ask questions, and talk about their own pets. One girl spent three minutes talking about her Chihuahua, which she said had the same name she did. Not until the end of her dissertation did she reveal that her dog was a stuffed toy.
I cautioned them against approaching stray dogs, told them to always to ask the owner before approaching a dog, showed them how to let dogs sniff their hands as an introduction and encouraged them to treat dogs as they’d like to be treated — calmly, kindly and lovingly.
Ace made an impression on the children in several ways, I think –through his size alone, his gentleness and his back story: a stray adopted from the shelter, like most of the other Karma Dogs, who went on to try and help humans.
The teacher behind the event (who also took these photos) was Marite Edwards, a longtime friend of Ace’s. When she took the idea to her principal, she learned that the school and district were looking at ways to add dog safety and kindness to animals to the curriculum.
That another case of animal abuse surfaced in Baltimore over the weekend — that of a cat set on fire by two teenagers — confirmed just how much those lessons are needed.
You can find more information about Karma Dogs at its website.
(Photos by Marite Edwards)
Posted by jwoestendiek February 2nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animals, approach, baltimore, certificate, children, city, compassion, curriculum, dog, dogs, hand, karma dogs, kids, kind to animals, kindergarten, lakewood elementary, marite edwards, mittens, oath of kindness, pets, phoenix, pre-k, safety, schools, sniff, teacher, therapy dog, violence, volunteers
As the case against two brothers accused of setting a pit bull named Phoenix on fire unfolds in a Baltimore courtroom, a cat named Mittens is nursing both her kittens and the wounds she received after being set on fire in the city.
It may not be raining abused cats and dogs, but this — one case entering the public consciousness before the other has a chance to clear it — is how a reputation gets made. And if Baltimore doesn’t do something — something big, something quick — it stands in danger of becoming known not as the city that reads, or even the city that bleeds, but the city that torches, and tortures, its pets.
Whether it deserves that label more than other cities is arguable. It’s also not the point. The point is the torture of animals is a big flashing neon sign, reading ”Address This Issue.” It’s a highly visible symptom of an illness in society that, even though it has been diagnosed, is largely being ignored.
Baltimore has no monopoly on animal torture — and it’s not the only city that’s failing to fully address it. In cities across the country there are pockets of misguided youths who have either failed to develop any compassion, may never have been taught any, or have had it snuffed out of them.
Attacking the problem is something that should be done not just for reasons of image, but, much more importantly, because it has been well documented that children who take pleasure in torturing pets often grow up to inflict harm on fellow humans. Pick a serial killer and you can, almost always, find animal abuse in his past.
If how a society treats its animals is a barometer of how civilized it is, Baltimore needs a massive injection of civility — stat — some large doses of empathy and compassion, best administered during childhood.
The saddest irony of it all is that animals are one of the best ways to administer that, to teach children a respect for all living things. Instead, dogs and cats, who we have so much to learn from about life, love and happiness, time and again in Baltimore are serving as the victims for those seeking sick thrills or acting out their inner hostilities.
Mittens, according to officials at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS), was placed into a milk crate by a juvenile who doused both the cat and the crate with lighter fluid, struck a match and threw it into the crate.
In flames, the cat broke free from the milk crate and ran from the yard, running in circles until the fire was extinguished, BARCS said. She then returned to the kittens she had recently given birth to at a home on Saint Ambrose Street. (St. Ambrose, for some more irony, is considered the patron saint of domestic animals.)
That incident came to light after the first day of testimony in the trial against teenage brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson, who are accused of dousing Phoenix, a pit bull, with accelerant and setting her on fire on May 27, 2009.
On Friday, Baltimore city police detective Syreeta Teel tearfully described finding the pit bull on fire on a West Baltimore street and running from her squad car to smother the flames with a sweater.
Despite her quick and heartfelt response, one thing that’s becoming evident during the trial is that the police department doesn’t take torturing and killing animals as seriously as some other crimes.
Teel, according to testimony, left the sweater, which might have provided traces of accelerant, on the sidewalk. The scene was never secured, and the police crime lab was never called. “The Baltimore City Police Department completely botched this,” said Assistant Public Defender Karyn Meriwether, who represents one of the brothers.
The death of Phoenix drew national attention, leading to thousands of dollars in donations to a reward fund and the creation of a city-wide Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force, which issued a report last year that found numerous flaws in the city’s response — particularly that of law enforcement — to incidents of animal abuse.
According to a Baltimore Sun report, the prosecution’s evidence is limited in the Phoenix case, and relies largely on unclear surveillance video and the word of witnesses — including a woman who the defense says came forward once the reward topped $25,000.
Phoenix was burned over more than 95 percent of her body. Veterinarians would later find that her corneas had melted, and the inside of her mouth was scorched. She’d lost her footpads to the flames, but she kept fighting until, with her kidneys failing, she was put to sleep five days later.
“On a scale of one to 10,” her pain level was “10,” said a Pennsylvania veterinarian who treated her. Phoenix also had puncture wounds on her neck and leg, indicating she might have been in dog fights, but throughout her treatment she showed no aggression.
The Johnson brothers both were initially charged in juvenile court, but were later indicted as adults on the animal cruelty charges, which carry a maximum prison sentence of three years. Testimony is expected to continue this morning.
Animal advocates in Baltimore are watching the case closely, and hoping that, if found guilty, the twins receive the most severe punishment posible.
But as the weekend’s developments show, as Mittens reminds us, a strict sentence is not the entire solution. It’s reactive, and while it may send a needed message, the city needs to do more, in a proactive way. Investigating, arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning animal abusers all need to be done, and done properly, and taken seriously, but what’s even more vital is preventing it from happening in the first place.
Our favorite reader comment: ”Kindness and concern for animals is going to have to be taught in elementary school. It’s the only way to stop this problem in its tracks.”
To see all the comments on this post, click here.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 31st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, abusers, animal, animal cruelty, animals, arrest, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, cat, cats, children, compassion, cruelty to animals, dogs, fire, image, juveniles, law enforcement, mittens, pets, phoenix, pit bull, prevention, prosecution, punishment, set on fire, task force, torture, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial, youth