Animal and Child Neglect Go Hand in Hand
On January 15, 2010 Lennis Stephens was found guilty by plea on six misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. He was sentenced to 48 days in jail with credit for time served, and one year of probation with orders requiring community service and prohibiting him from owning, possessing or having contact with animals.
The nine dogs seized from Lennis Stephens’ property have since been forfeited over to authorities – and a court order prohibits Stephens from possessing animals within Volusia County. Now facing nine misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, Mr. Stephens has a pre-trial hearing date scheduled for January 19, 2010 at 8:30 a.m.
(Volusia County, FL) Allegedly training dogs for fighting at his home, Lennis Stephens faces felony charges of child neglect as well as animal cruelty. The reported deplorable conditions of his property made it dangerous and uninhabitable. Stephens’ five-year-old daughter is now living with relatives and child protective services is investigating. Eight chained and reportedly starving dogs were found outside the house, while a ninth was discovered inside.
Dogs raised for fighting are forced to live desperately, repeatedly suffering ruthless and gruesome abuses as well as systematic neglect. Tragically, it is not unusual for children to be victimized by this culture as well – either taken to fighting events by the very adults they should be able to count on to shield them from harm, or, as this case so sadly illustrates, chronically exposed to squalid and dangerous living conditions.
What You Can Do
Letters may be written to your state legislators, encouraging them to consider ALDF’s First Strike and You're Out law. Note concern for the prevalence of animal fighting in your community and your expectation that law enforcement agents be well-trained and supported by meaningful legislation. Forward-looking sentences are crucial to effective animal fighting interventions - not only for the sake of the animal and child victims tied to a current case, but as a means of frustrating the chronic cycle of criminal abuses which animal fighters embrace.
Clerk of the Circuit Court, Criminal Division
Volusia County Justice Center
251 N. Ridgewood Avenue
Daytona Beach, FL 32114