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Tag: doused

Vigil honors dog who was beaten and burned

A candlelight vigil was held in Milwaukee Sunday in honor of Big Boy, a 2-year-old miniature pinscher that police said was beaten with a stick, doused with gasoline then set on fire, sustaining injuries so severe he had to be put down.

The dog’s owner, Clarissa Burnette, read a poem about Big Boy, who joined her family two years ago. The dog was stolen April 9 after he was let outside, according to TV station WISN.

Milwaukee police have arrested a 13-year-old boy in connection with the case.

Organizers of the vigil said the case shows the need for tougher animal cruelty laws.  “We want them to know they really need to tighten these law up,” said organizer Wendy Blish.

The Humane Society of the United States on Friday offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the abuse.

New trial in Phoenix case? Prosecutors, citing gag order, say they are considering it

Will Baltimore twins Travers and Tremayne Johnson be retried on animal cruelty charges in connecton with the setting a pit bull on fire?

A May 4 date has been set aside at the courthouse, but prosecutors, citing a gag order issued by the judge, aren’t saying much more than that.

The trial of the twins charged with setting fire to the dog, who became known as Phoenix, ended in a mistrial Monday.

Deputy State’s Attorney Elizabeth Embry, at a meeting with animal advocates Wednesday, said prosecutors are holding a series of meetings to determine whether to retry the case.

According to the Baltimore Sun, she said the office expects to announce a decision soon.

Jurors deliberated for more than 20 hours over three days, but one juror wasn’t convinced of the brothers’ guilty, making a verdict impossible.

“We want to be very deliberative and are having a series of meetings to discuss the case,” Embry, said at the meeting, noting the gag order. “As soon as the decision is made, which will be shortly … we’ll be making an announcement.”

Pit bulls: Trials and tribulations

We can’t remember a week — at least not since 2007, when federal authorities raided 1915 Moonlight Road – that pit bulls have grabbed so many headlines … without even biting anyone.

Here in Baltimore, the week began with a pit bull parade, sponsored by B-More Dog and designed to improve the image and shatter the misconceptions about the breed — such as the one that they are innately inclined to inflict violence.

Those who ran into the pack of four-legged goodwill ambassadors at the Inner Harbor Sunday got a chance to see beyond the myths.

The very next day, a mistrial was declared in the case against twin brothers in Baltimore accused of setting a pit bull on fire in the summer of 2009. Phoenix, as the dog was dubbed, died five days later. The police investigation that followed, testimony at the trial indicated, was something less than thorough — likely, I think it’s safe to say, because the murder victim was a dog, and, in particular, a pit bull.

Jurors were unable to reach a decision, and a new trial is a possibility, but as of now, it appears the fatal burning of Phoenix will go unpunished. Despite that, she leaves a legacy.

“We waited almost two years for justice for Phoenix and though justice was not met for her, she became the change agent and public figure for animal abuse,” said Jennifer Brause, executive director of Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS). “Thousands of people offered their support on her behalf. Because of her, a Mayor’s Commission on Animal Abuse has been formed and the seriousness of animal abuse has been elevated to a national level.”

No dog, I will go out on a limb and educatedly guess, is more often the victim of abuse and neglect than the pit bull type — just as they are the most often maligned. Society, rather than simply label them as aggressive, and ban and muzzle them,  needs to come to terms with the fact that, in those instances when they are violent, our fellow humans are responsible for it, training them to fight, attempting to breed for viciousness, and trying to turn their natural born tenacity into something mean and macho.

Which brings us, once again, to Bad Newz Kennels.

Down in Dallas, the adoptive parent of one of Michael Vick’s dogs confronted the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and offered him an opportunity to meet Mel, a shy and fearful pit bull who was apparently used as a bait dog at Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels.

The convicted dogfighting ring operator — in Dallas to receive the key to the city — declined, and his entourage shoved Mel’s new owner, local radio personality Richard Hunter, who captured the whole episode on his shaky camera, out of the way.

A few days after that, reports surfaced that Vick’s former estate on Moonlight Road, the Surry, Virginia, headquarters of Bad Newz Kennels, which has sat empty for three years, may be getting a new owner — Dog Deserves Better, a Pennsylvania-based dog rescue and advocacy group.

They hope to turn the former Vick mansion — where 51 dogs were seized by authorities and eight more were found dead and buried on the grounds — into a training and rehabilitation center for rescued dogs.

As usual, bringing up Michael Vick brings on lots of comments, on this blog and others, from his supporters — those who say “give it a rest,” those who say “he served his time,” those who say he’s a different person now who should be permitted to move beyond his besmirched reputation.

Be that as it may, I’m wondering when pit bulls — given they are regularly accused and punished without any trials, given that any violence they display has been instilled into them by humans, given that their bad reputation is mostly undeserved – will be afforded that same opportunity.

As a breed, they’ve done their time.

(Photo by Tim Quinn)

Phoenix case: Closing arguments tomorrow

Both sides rested their cases Wednesday in the trial of Travers and Tremayne Johnson, accused as 17 year-olds of setting on a fire a pit bull who later died of her injuries.

Closing arguments are expected to conclude Thursday, at which point the jury begins deliberations. The twins, now 19, each face a maximum sentence of three years in prison if convicted of animal cruelty.

After testimony from 10 prosecution witnesses, the defense presented only one, WBAL reported – a fire protection engineer who characterized earlier testimony that an accelerant was found on two pairs of jeans a backpack and sneakers taken from the Johnson home as inconclusive and incomplete

The defense witness said tests on the collar of the dog, named Phoenix, were also inconclusive and didn’t detect any particular ignitable substance.

Witness testifies in day 2 of “Phoenix” trial

A witness, bluntly acknowledging that she came forward only because an award was offered, said she saw Travers and Tremayne Johnson run “from the scene of the crime” seconds after a pit bull puppy was set on fire.

Tiera Goodman, who is jailed in an unrelated case, testified today in the twins’ trial in Baltimore on animal cruelty charges.

“I know what I saw, I just didn’t care until I seen the reward,” Goodman said, explaining why she waited six days before approaching police about the pit bull who was set on fire in the the summer of 2009.

Goodman stands to gain thousands of dollars in reward money that was collected after the dog, nicknamed “Phoenix,” after five days of suffering, was euthanized. About $28,000 in donations were taken in for the reward, which will be paid if there’s a conviction in the case, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Prosecutors today showed video from a city surveillance camera, showing the street scene minutes before the attack in late May.

As narrated in court  by Sgt. Jarron Jackson, the video showed a man call the dog, then walk her over to two other men standing on the corner. While the footage is fuzzy, Jackson identified the two males as the Johnson brothers, based partly on their mannerisms, he said.

Jackson said the video shows Travers kicking the dog before taking her to an alley and disappearing from the camera’s view. Seven minutes later, the brothers ran out of the alley, and seconds later the burning dog appeared.

Goodman told the courtroom she left the scene when police arrived, and came forward only “because there was a reward. It’s posted all over the projects.”

Two teens charged in burning of “Mittens”

Baltimore police said Monday that two 17-year-old boys have been charged with multiple accounts of animal cruelty in connection with using lighter fluid to set a cat named Mittens on fire in Baltimore’s Central Park Heights neighborhood.

The owner of the cat, who lives on the 3300 block of St. Ambrose Ave.,  told police that the animal had been set on fire by her grandson and a friend.

A witness told police that the suspects brought the cat onto a rear, second-floor deck three weeks ago and and put a milk crate on top of the pet. They then poured lighter fluid through the openings in the crate and dropped a book of lit matches into the crate, police said.

Police said the cat howled, knocked the milk crate over and leapt from the balcony, running in circles until the flames went out.

Mittens recently had three kittens, and continues to nurse them in her new surroundings — at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS), where she is expected to survive her injuries.

Mittens’ ears were damaged as a result of the burns. She also sustained third- and fourth-degree burns on her back and side, according to BARCS.

Mother cat set on fire in Baltimore

In yet another case of animal abuse in Baltimore, a teenager doused a young female cat with lighter fluid and set her on fire.

The cat, and the kittens she recently gave birth to, were taken to Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) after police responded to a call in the 3300 block Saint Ambrose Street.

The cat, who has been nicknamed Mittens at the shelter, is suffering from burns on most of her body.

Witnesses told police that, earlier this month, a juvenile placed the cat in a milk crate on the back porch, doused the milk crate and the cat with lighter fluid and then struck a match and threw it in 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 home and hid under a table.

Police have not reported whether any arrests were made at the residence, which they said still smelled of singed skin when they arrived.

The cat and her kittens are residing in “Critter Care” at BARCS. Mittens has third and fourth degree burns. She is expected to survive, but will need long term treatment.  It will be months before she is healed and her fur may not grow back

“This is another horrible case of animal abuse in Baltimore City, ” said Jennifer Brause, BARCS’ Executive Director. “Mittens is a wonderful cat, who despite her injuries is still caring for her kittens and is very affectionate to the staff.”

Mittens’ medical bills will be covered by BARCS’ Franky Fund, a fund that relies on donations from the public to pay the veterinarian and medical bills of injured animals that come to the shelter for care.

Donations to the Franky Fund are accepted through the BARCS website, or at the shelter, located at 301 Stockholm Street in South Baltimore (near M&T Bank Stadium).

Twins, named in dog burning, face gun trial

phoenix4Jury selection begins today in the firearms possession trial of twin brothers accused of setting fire to a pit bull in May.

Travers and Tremayne Johnson, both 18, and their father, Charles Johnson, were charged in June with possession of firearms and marijuana.

Police say they found drugs and weapons in a raid conducted at the Johnsons’ South Pulaski Street home in connection with the investigation into the burning of a pit bull rescuers dubbed “Phoenix.”

Prosecutors opted to try the brothers and their 76-year-old father on the firearms case before the twins trial on animal cruelty charges.

The brothers were indicted by a Baltimore grand jury in November on aggravated animal abuse charges. They pleaded not guilty in December.

Phoenix had been doused with gasoline and set on fire when a police officer spotted the dog and put the fire out with her jacket. Phoenix had burns over more than 95 percent of her. She lived several days, but had to be euthanized due to complications resulting from her injuries.

Task force on animal abuse calls for changes

phoenix3Baltimore could be doing a far better job of protecting its pets and animals, a task force appointed by Mayor Sheila Dixon concludes in an interim report released this week.

Its recommendations include stiffer penalties, stronger laws, greater police involvement, a larger and better equipped animal shelter, improved coordination between city departments and a greater effort to increase public awareness about the problem.

The task force was created after a pit bull was doused with gasoline and set on fire in West Baltimore in May, 2009.

Police Officer Syreeta Teel observed the burning dog on the 1600 block of Presbury Street and extinguished the flames with her sweater. The dog, who was subsequently named Phoenix by her caretakers, suffered severe burns over 95% of her body and died four days later.

The task force was charged with looking at ways to eradicate animal abuse, and dogfighting in particular, in the city; increase awareness of animal cruelty laws; legislation to protect animals and prosecute abusers; and how animal control and law enforcement could better handle animal cruelty cases.

“Our examination into these subject areas has not been all bleak,” the task force reported. “While the Department of Animal Control is in urgent need of assistance and reform, other systems, such as the current system for tracking animal related concerns, operates fairly effectively and needs only minor revamping to track animal cruelty cases.

“And while additional legislation should be enacted to prosecute abusers, on a positive note, the State’s Attorney’s Office of the City of Baltimore has shown great commitment in the prosecution of Travers and Tremayne Johnson, the defendants charged with aggravated animal cruelty in the burning death of Phoenix.”

The report adds: ”The public response to the work of the Task Force has been positive. Public sentiment is changing and a “no tolerance” policy toward animal abuse is emerging. Moreover, it is well recognized that animal abuse is a precursor to violent crime against people …

“If the City of Baltimore seeks to eradicate drug violence, gang violence, child abuse and spousal abuse, it must also eradicate animal abuse, for when one encounters animal abuse or dogfighting, one of the former scourges is likely to be present. Stamping out animal abuse is one of the most effective crime prevention tools available to law enforcement officials.”

You can find the full report on the mayor’s website.

Recommendations in the report call for a better system of reporting and tracking animal abuse, beefing up Animal Control staff, better communication with the city’s social services department about animal abuse cases, and assigning three police officers to work full-time with Animal Control.

Currently, there are no officers assigned to work with the department and no liaison between Animal Control and the Baltimore City Police Department, and no channel of communication to discuss ongoing investigations, the report says.

Animal control officers have no authority to make arrests or carry guns, the report notes, and “must call for police backup when investigating dogfighting or crimes in progress against animals.” Police response times can vary, but can be as long as 40 minutes. “In the interim, witnesses flee, crime scenes are not secured, and evidence degrades.”

Maryland has recently dropped into the bottom tier of states in terms of the strength of its animal cruelty laws, according to the report, which calls for stiffer penalties for animal abuse.

Here is the complete list of recommendations:

Read more »

Brothers accused of setting fire to pit bull will be tried as adults, judge in Baltimore rules

Two brothers accused of burning to death the pit bull who became known as Phoenix will face felony charges as adults.

Travers Johnson and Tremayne Johnson, both 17, appeared Tuesday in juvenile court in Baltimore, where  a judge ruled they will be tried as adults, WBAL reported.

The teens are charged with dousing the dog with gasoline, then setting her on fire on May 27 in the 1700 block of Calhoun Street in southwest Baltimore. The 2-year-old pit bull suffered burns over 98 percent of her body.

The dog, rescued by a police officer, died four days later at a Pennsylvania animal hospital. Her death led to the formation of a city task force to review animal cruelty laws.

Attorney Caroline Griffin, who chairs the animal abuse task force, observed yesterday’s court proceedings.

“What impressed me was how seriously the state’s attorney’s office is taking this case, as well as the court. The court listened to testimony for hours,” she said. “Juveniles who commit these type of crimes are just so much more likely to commit violent crime in the future, and I think people are aware of that, and that’s why this case is so important.”

Prosecutors said both brothers were involved with gangs, had chronic truancy issues and previous probation violations. Both also face drug charges.

Assistant state’s attorney Jennifer Rallo told the judge that video and witness accounts prove the brothers tortured and mutilated Phoenix. She said the brothers used a vacant home at 1616 Gilmore St. to keep pit pulls, and that police found signs of dogs and gang activity there.

Defense attorneys wanted the case to stay in the juvenile system, where they said rehabilitation services and programs were available. They argued that Tremayne Johnson has health issues and suffers from depression and brain tumors for which he recently underwent brain surgery.

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