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Tag: court

No justice for Camboui, the PTSD dog slain on camera by two Fort Bragg soldiers

camfacebook

One of two Fort Bragg soldiers who tied a dog to a tree, shot it 10 times, and took photos and video of the killing had the animal cruelty charges against him dismissed this week.

Instead, in North Carolina’s Harnett County District Court, Jarren Heng was found guilty only of having a gun on educational property and conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals.

Heng was sentenced to between 6 and 17 months in prison, but the sentence was suspended. He will be on supervised probation for 12 months.

He also was ordered to pay a $100 fine and $450 in court costs, undergo psychiatric counseling and (as if the sentence weren’t already asinine enough) perform community service at an animal shelter.

Heng and Marinna Rollins, 23, an Army veteran, were charged in late April with tying an emotional support dog to a tree and shooting it to death.

The dog, named Camboui, served as Rollins’ PTSD dog, though he belonged to her estranged husband, Matt Dyer.

rollinsPhotos and videos of Heng and Rollins shooting the dog ended up on Facebook, showing them giggling, drinking Coca-Colas and making jokes as they executed the dog.

Rollins killed herself on May 7, after her arrest.

Rollins had joined the Army in February of 2014 and served as a multimedia illustrator before medically retiring from the Army in January of 2017. Heng had been part of a unit that serves the Army Special Operations Command.

In April, Rollins began posting on Facebook, saying she was attempting to find Camboui a new home. She told a friend that caring for him was too expensive. On April 17, she posted that she had a great last day with Camboui and that he was going to a new home.

“Sad he has to go, but he will be much happier where he is heading off to,” Rollins wrote on Facebook.

But where Camboui was actually taken was also revealed on Facebook — bizarrely enough in photos and videos taken by Heng and Rollins and posted on Facebook.

Heng and Rollins took Camboui to a wooded area. Both wore their Army camouflage pants and boots. Heng is pictured shirtless and Rollins wore a pink polka-dotted bra.

hengRollins shot Cam in the head, then fired several more shots into his body before Heng asked for a turn and handed her the camera. “Let me hit him once,” Heng said, according to court documents. They took photographs of the execution and at least three videos.

The case was investigated by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, which found the videos, photos and text messages between the two discussing the shooting.

But it was later transferred to Harnett County when it was learned that the shooting took place there, on some wooded property owned by Western Harnett High School.

There, prosecutors didn’t see Heng as the primary culprit, and didn’t pursue the most serious charges against him.

In a statement after the sentencing Harnett County Assistant District Attorney Edward Page said, “The evidence in the case tended to show that Marinna Rollins, the dog’s owner who has committed suicide, was the instigator of these despicable acts. Mr. Heng was certainly an active participant, but the shots he fired were after the dog had been shot 5 times by Ms. Rollins. A jury likely would have believed that the dog was already deceased by the time Mr. Heng fired the rifle.

“Additionally complicating matters is that Ms. Rollins had apparently told Mr. Heng that the dog was going to have to be euthanized anyway due to illness, which goes to his state of mind,” Page said.

“Ms. Rollins might have been the primary target of the prosecution in these matters, but she has paid the ultimate price,” he added.

Page said a charge of discharging a firearm on educational property was dismissed because it was not clear that either defendant knew the woods where they shot the dog were within the property boundaries of the school.

Chief District Court Judge Jacqueline Lee presided over the case and came up with the provision that Heng perform community service at an animal shelter as part of his punishment — an idea that many who have followed the case see as a major mistake, judging from comments left on the Justice for Cam Facebook page.

Even members of Rollins’ family were upset with Heng’s sentencing.

“It is so unfortunate that true justice was not served, for Cam,” Rollins’ sister, Ariana Rollins told the Fayetteville Observer. “He has to pay a hundred-dollar fine, for taking a life of an innocent animal. I hope he has to live everyday knowing what he did, and how many people his actions affected.”

The newspaper quoted Rollins’ estranged husband, Matt Dyer, as saying, “I am so mad. Watching that video, how could you not think he’s going to do terrible things to humans? He’s a sick person.”

Animal rights activist Donna Lawrence, one of about eight observers at Heng’s court appearance, said, “I’m in shock. It’s ridiculous … Who would want him working in a shelter?”

Prosecutor Page insisted the sentence was a fair one.

“Mr. Heng is now a convicted felon for the rest of his life, he received about as severe a punishment as he could get … and we expect the felony conviction will end his military career,” he said. “We appreciate the public’s interest in this case, and believe the outcome in the case was just.”

(Photos from the Justice for Cam Facebook page)

Man who drowned dog is ordered to keep pup’s photo in his wallet for two years

burrowA North Carolina judge imposed a lenient but lingering sentence on a Fort Bragg soldier who intentionally drowned his 8-month-old puppy.

Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons handed John Burrow a sentence of 30 days in jail and 100 hours of community service, cleaning the cages at Cumberland County Animal Control.

A light sentence — but one with a twist:

Ammons also ordered Burrow to keep a photo of the eight-month-old pup in his wallet for the next two years, while serving his probation, according to WTVD.

Police said Burrow, a paratrooper, used parachute cords to tie the legs of the pup, named Riley, and looped the rope around his muzzle before throwing him into MacFadyen Pond around Thanksgiving in 2014.

The dog’s body washed ashore on Jan. 2, 2015.

Yesterday’s sentencing followed a guilty plea by Burrow.

Investigators said Burrow told them the mixed lab-shepherd pup had run away from home several times, and he and his wife could not afford the veterinarian bill after the dog was hurt during a previous escape.

rileyBurrow and his wife, Kelsey, initially claimed the dog had run away when they were questioned by police after his body was discovered.

Kelsey Burrow told Cumberland County sheriff’s investigators then that Riley had stood on a privacy fence and opened the latch on the gate.

Investigators said she put false posts on Facebook saying Riley was suffering from organ failure, and told a friend in a Facebook message that the dog died while undergoing surgery.

Kelsey Burrow has been charged as an accomplice and is still awaiting sentencing.

In court Tuesday, John Burrow, 24, apologized, the Fayetteville Observer reported.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “so very sorry, and sorry to Riley. I did love Riley. I did love that dog. I have no excuse.”

As part of the plea arrangement, Burrow agreed not to own another animal during his probation period.

(Photos: WTVD and the Fayetteville Observer)

Deaf dog helps abused children be heard

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A deaf boxer in Florida is helping abused children be heard, by helping them get through the trauma of testifying in court.

Karl, a 5-year-old therapy dog, was born deaf, but that might actually assist him in calmly and quietly performing his duties with the Orange County K-9th Circuit Program.

“He doesn’t hear all the noise,” said Karl’s owner and trainer Joanne Hart-Rittenhouse told News 13. “So he’s not going to react to yelling, banging, all the other things that can happen during a case.”

karl1Children who are testifying at a trial enter the courtroom before the jury is seated, with the dog on a leash. The dog lies at their feet, hidden from the jury’s view, while they testify.

Karl’s presence helps children summon the courage to face the microphone and speak — usually as the accused watches.

“One of the questions a child had asked me, the person who had hurt her that was in the courtroom with her, If he comes over and tries to hurt me, will Karl protect me?’

“I doubt very much that he would do anything,” Hart-Rittenhouse said. “But if that’s what made the child feel better, then absolutely, he’s going to protect you.”

“Most of them won’t testify, won’t go through a deposition, if they don’t have a dog beside them,” she added.

Karl’s owner stays in the courtroom, hearing the testimony that Karl will never hear, and Karl stays available to the children even after the court case is over.

“We’ll be there as long as the child wants Karl to stay in their life,” Hart-Rittenhouse said. “He’s helped a lot of children.”

Karl is one of six therapy dogs providing support through the non-profit Companions for Courage that works in courtrooms and hospitals.

The Ninth Circuit is the first Florida circuit to utilize both pet therapy dog teams and professionally trained handlers.

(Photos: Amanda McKenzie, News 13)

Depp and his wife apologize to Australia

Johnny Depp’s wife totally out-acted her more famous husband, or at least came across as more sincere, in this video apologizing to the Australian government for sneaking their two Yorkshire terriers into the country without declaring them.

In what more than a few think looks like a hostage video, the couple talks about the importance of Australia’s strict biosecurity laws — aimed at preserving the islands diverse plant and animal life.

“When you disrespect Australian law, they will tell you firmly,” Depp somberly — almost sleepily — intones.

“I am truly sorry that Pistol and Boo were not declared,” says his wife, Amber Heard.

Clearly, this recorded apology was part of a deal reached between the couple’s lawyers and the Australian government. Heard was initially charged with smuggling, conviction of which can carry a 10-year prison sentence, but she pleaded guilty yesterday only to knowingly producing a false or misleading document.

In exchange for that, and the apology, she got little more than a slap on the wrist. She received a one-month “good-behavior bond,” which means she would be fined ($1,000 Australian dollars) only if she broke that bond.

The apology was posted to Facebook by Australia Minister of Agriculture Barnaby Joyce, who, after the charges were first filed, suggested that the dogs, if they weren’t “buggered off back to the United States,” might otherwise face being euthanized.

After that, during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Depp called Joyce a “weird, sweaty-pated gut man who decided two five- or six-inch teacup terriers would harm the country in some way.”

Quite a contrast with the apology video, yes?

Depp and Heard failed to filed the proper paperwork when they arrived by private jet last year in Australia, where Depp was filming “Pirates of the Caribbean 5.” Normally, arriving dogs face a quarantine period.

After photos of Depp’s dogs going to a groomer in Australia went public, the government began an investigation into how they entered the country.

Joyce told ABC News that he hopes the recorded apology serves as a warning to future travelers to Australia.

“The more widely viewed it is the more we have people who might be unaware of our biosecurity requirements and, as they come into this nation, they say this is one thing that the Australians are red hot about, biosecurity.”

Number of animals removed from overwhelmed N.C. shelter rises to 700

The number of animals taken from a no-kill shelter in Hoke County, N.C., has risen to nearly 700.

Hoke County sheriff’s deputies and about 140 ASPCA staff members cleared the last of the animals off the 122-acre property Saturday, officials said Monday.

The state shut down The Haven – Friends for Life shelter on Jan. 27, charging its owners, Linden and Stephen Spears, with four counts of animal cruelty and three counts of possession of a controlled substance.

The Spears, who had been barred from their home by court order, are now able to return, said sheriff’s Capt. John Kivett.

“The investigation is still continuing, and possibly more charges will be brought in the very near future,” Kivett told the Fayetteville Observer.

The ASPCA has taken temporary custody of the animals — more than 300 dogs, 250 cats, as well as horses, birds and pigs — and they are being cared for at undisclosed locations across North Carolina.

Investigators also found the remains of 15 dogs buried on the property.

As of Monday, about half of the adult dogs and 182 cats were in isolation due to respiratory illnesses and other contagious conditions. Ten veterinarians have been treating the animals, some of which have open wounds and some of which appeared malnourished.

“Hopefully, they’ll continue to recover,” ASPCA spokeswoman Kelly Krause said. “We will be making sure they are staying healthy, treating them and making sure they have care.”

Once healthy the ASPCA hopes to make the dogs and cats available for adoption, but that can’t happen until a court determines the custody of the animals, she said.

The next court appearance for the Spears is scheduled for Feb. 10.

Owner of dog killed by police in Colorado receives landmark $262,000 settlement

chloe

In a settlement that’s being called one of the largest ever for a wrongful pet death, the owner of a dog shot and killed by police in Commerce City, Colorado, will receive $262,000,

Chloe, a 3-year-old chocolate Lab mix, was shot and killed by police in 2012 — after she’d been secured with a catch pole and shot with a stun gun.

A video camera captured Officer Robert Price firing five shots at the dog.

Chloe had been Gary Branson’s companion and therapy dog since 2008.

“I am happy that we have been vindicated,” Branson said. “She deserved justice for what happened to her. This has been a very difficult time for me and am glad that it is now settled.”

The payment was part of a settlement aimed at avoiding a federal civil court trial scheduled later this month, KDVR reported.

Branson had left the dog in the care of a relative during an out of town trip in November 2012. The relative left the dog in the garage while running errands and Chloe somehow activated the door’s sensor, making it open.

A neighbor saw the unleashed dog and called police to report an aggressive “pit bull”-type dog roaming the neighborhood.

When police arrived, Chloe was back in the garage. After getting the noose of a catch pole around her neck, and using a Taser on the dog, Officer Robert Price, deeming the dog’s behavior as threatening and aggressive, shot Chloe.

Commerce City police, after a review of the incident, said Price was acting “within policy” when he killed the dog.

He was nevertheless charged with aggravated animal cruelty, only to be later acquitted by an Adams County jury.

Attorney Jennifer Edwards with the Animal Law Center said that decision prompted the filing of a lawsuit.

“It wasn’t surprising. I think the prosecutor’s office was pretty conflicted in this,” Edwards says, “At that point my client did not feel much vindication so the only thing left is to pursue a civil remedy.”

Edwards said the settlement sets precedent for thousands of other cases.

“It speaks volumes as to the fact that this isn’t going to happen and you’re not going to not be held accountable,” she said.

For Branson, the settlement still isn’t enough to replace what he lost.

“No amount of money could replace Chloe,” he said.

Below is the video (be warned, it is disturbing) of Chloe’s death, taken by one of Branson’s neighbors.

(Photo from Justice for Chloe Facebook page)

Sparring for sperm: Legal fight stems from neutering of a champion bichon frisé

beauWhen a  bichon frisé named Beau Lemon retired from the dog show circuit as the second best of his breed, plans were for him to spend his leisure years raking in the stud fees.

At age 3, his owners in Minnesota figured Beau — full name Victoire Gerie’s No Lemon Gemstone — could breed at least until he was 10.

In the process, they figured, they would be ensuring his genes and his legacy lived on .

And they’d get the puppy that they desperately wanted.

But those hopes, and those bucks, seemingly became a thing of the past when Beau’s breeder had the little white dog neutered without their knowledge, owners Mary and John Wangsness allege in a lawsuit.

The legal dispute has been going on for about a year now in Minnesota’s Ramsey County, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The Wangsnesses allege breeder Vickie Halstead, who sold them the dog, acted in “vengeance” by neutering Beau because they had tried to breed him twice to a female dog, Cha Cha, without obtaining Halstead’s approval, which  was required in the sales contract.

They are seeking more than $50,000 in damages, and about eight vials of what they believe to be Beau’s frozen semen, now stored in a veterinary clinic and estimated to be worth $3,000 each.

The semen is being held under Halstead’s name, and the lawsuit alleges she has already profited from selling two vials.

As John Wangsness sees it, since it came from the loins of his dog, what’s in those vials are his.

“Damn right, they’re mine,” he said.

Beau was neutered without their approval in July 2013, when he was 4.

“After hearing about the neutering, and I’m not overstating things at all, Mary literally cried and stayed in bed for three weeks,”  said Wangsness, adding that she never fully recovered before she died this past March.

The case isn’t as black and white as it might seen.  In the competitive world of dog showing, ownership of a dog — as well as decisions about its care and profits — are often contractually shared between the breeder and the owner.

And that much debated sperm might not even be Beau Lemon’s.

Halstead’s attorney, Joseph Crosby, said at a recent hearing that the frozen semen belongs to Beau’s brother, Beau Jangles.

Crosby said Halstead “rescued” the dog from the Wangsnesses because they were neglecting him. He said Beau was suffering from dental disease, a low sperm count, impacted anal glands, and a matted and unhealthy coat.

Crosby said Beau’s neutering was necessary due to his “deteriorated health condition.”

In June of 2013, Halstead borrowed Beau from the Wangsnesses for what she told them was breeding purposes, the lawsuit says.

They did not learn of his neutering until he was returned.

Larry Leventhal, attorney for the Wangsnesses, said the couple treated Beau as a pet, but they also expected to have the option of breeding him several times a year at a rate of $2,000 to $3,000 per breeding until he turned 10.

Wangsness said that, more than money, he wants justice for his wife.

“I would like some vindication for the emotional distress that happened to Mary as a result of [Beau’s neutering],” Wangsness said.

Attorneys were scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss a settlement agreement.

(Photo: Beau, as pictured on the website for Victoir’s Bichons)