Of Puddles and Pit Bulls

Posted by April Nockleby, ALDF's Online Content Manager on November 14, 2008

ALDF attorneys are crime fighters for animals in jurisdictions nationwide

For more than a dozen years, the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Criminal Justice Program (CJP) has been fighting for stronger anti-cruelty laws and more vigorous prosecution of animal abusers. A dedicated staff of attorneys provides free legal assistance to prosecutors and law enforcement agencies around the country, helping to ensure that those working to bring animal abuse cases to court have every available resource at their disposal.

Two recent cases illustrate how CJP goes to bat for animals – and local prosecutors. In May, Mandy Trout, a deputy county attorney in Platte County, Nebraska, contacted Scott Heiser, director of the Criminal Justice Program. Mandy was preparing a case against the owner of Puddles, a 13-year-old Bichon Frise who had suffered such severe neglect that, he had to be euthanized. The little dog, who was blind and deaf, was suffering terribly from a treatable skin condition that his owner ignored, even as Puddles chewed his bleeding limbs for relief. Mandy asked Scott if he would mind reviewing the evidence and recommend how she should proceed.

Scott did better than that. He boarded a plane for Nebraska and took a hands-on approach to assisting Mandy with prosecuting the dog’s owner, whose defense was based in part on her claim that this case was a waste of the court’s time. After the defense tried unsuccessfully to exclude evidence, limit testimony and sanitize the court record, Scott outlined key portions of the State’s closing argument, which Mandy eloquently delivered to the jury. It took the jury only 32 minutes of deliberation to convict Puddles’ owner of misdemeanor animal cruelty, with sentencing to be decided.

Earlier this year, Scott assisted a city attorney in Daytona Beach, Florida, after law enforcement officials seized 32 pit bulls from a home. With fresh wounds on their faces, heads, necks and shoulders, these dogs were clearly being used in a dogfighting operation. ALDF and the city attorney’s primary goal was to ensure the defendant surrendered ownership of these exploited animals, so Scott met with the city attorney and helped prepare for and prevail at the forfeiture hearing.

“These two cases are perfect examples of the services ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program provides,” says Scott. “The cases are from opposite ends of the spectrum, both in terms of the size and the nature of the jurisdictions – rural versus urban. They demonstrate that animal cruelty knows no socio-economic boundaries and that the Criminal Justice Program will work aggressively with law enforcement to see animal abusers prosecuted.”

When it comes to cases involving animal abusers, local prosecutors can count on ALDF to be an aggressive part of the team!