Action Item in the Case of Phoenix

Baltimore – Eleven of twelve jurors wanted to convict Travers and Tremayne Johnson for the cruelty inflicted on Phoenix, the Pitbull who was was doused in gasoline and set on fire in 2009.  The twelfth juror held out on reasonable doubt.  Therefore, a mistrial was declared.  Unless the State’s Attorney decides to retry the case, there will be no justice for Phoenix.  Polite requests for a retrial can be made here:

Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City
208 Mitchell Courthouse
110 North Calvert Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202

Thanks to Jeanne and Clarice for sending in the mistrial news.


One Pitbull Torturer Not Up for MVP This Year

I always find it difficult to report on animal cruelty stories.  Some do touch me more deeply than others of course and such was the case with Phoenix, a Pitbull set on fire in Baltimore in 2009.  A crowd of onlookers watched her burn until a heroic police officer arrived to douse the flames.  Tragically, Phoenix was unable to survive, even with compassionate veterinary care funded by kind-hearted donors.  Teen twin brothers were charged with the crime and set to go to trial January 19.

While free on bail, one of the brothers allegedly tried to kill someone.  So after facing animal cruelty and mutilation charges on the 19th, the now 18 year old Travers Johnson “is slated for arraignment Jan. 27 on charges of attempted murder, assault and handgun violations”.

While it is indeed difficult for many of us to hear about animal cruelty stories, the link between violence against animals and violence against humans is well documented.  We must get the courts to take animal abuse seriously.  It only makes it harder when HSUS uses its massive PR machine to whitewash an animal abuser like Michael Vick.  But don’t be fooled – people who torture pets require long-term monitoring in my view.  And by monitoring I mean like the police knocking on your door unannounced periodically to see what the hell you are doing and to make sure you don’t have any pets.  Remember, Vick never “paid his debt to society” for torturing dogs.  He only served time for bankrolling his illegal dogfighting operation.  Just because Wayne Pacelle thinks he should be allowed to have another dog or because he’s good at football doesn’t mean he’s not a candidate for police monitoring to my mind.  Two words:  Travers Johnson.

Baltimore Parenting Fail

Warning – Graphic photo at first and third links

It’s Easter Sunday – Do you know whose pet your kids are torturing?

BARCS Program Manager Debra Rahl says Christie [a one-year old pit bull mix] was tied to a pole Easter Sunday morning in the 3700 block of Greenspring Avenue near Martin Luther King Elementary School.  She says some children, believed to be as young as 12 years old, were throwing rocks and bricks at her.

I’m pretty sure MLK would be groaning in his grave to know what’s going on near the school named for him.  And as we know, there is a positive correlation between violence against animals and violence against people:

Rahl says a good samaritan who tried to intervene also was threatened and he says the children started throwing rocks at him.

Attention Baltimore parents:

Anyone with information is asked to call 410-396-4698.

The National Canine Research Council offers an excellent comment on the case:

No one keeps track, nor is there any way to know, how many dogs suffer at the hands of man and DO NOT bite.

Unless there is a way to keep track or acknowledge the thousands or tens of thousands of dogs that suffer abuse and still do not bite humans, “dog bite statistics” are useless in evaluating the behavior or “dangerousness” of dogs.

Frankly, I’m more concerned about the “dangerousness” of Baltimore’s kids than any dogs there.  It was less than a year ago that 17 year old twin brothers in Baltimore poured gasoline on a Pitbull, set her on fire in the street and watched with a crowd of onlookers as she screamed.  They face trial in June.

Charges in Baltimore Cruelty Case

But will there be justice for Phoenix? Two teens charged:

Two juveniles have been arrested in the burning of a pit bull, a case that sparked a furor over animal cruelty and a reward that topped $24,000.
A press conference is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at police headquarters to discuss the case.

I hope authorities take this crime seriously and recognize that next time, the target might not be a dog but a kid or some other easily victimized member of our society. I’ll update this post if additional details are made available.

Update: News conference has been postponed.

Reward in Baltimore Cruelty Case Soars

From Unleashed:

The fund continues to grow for information leading to the arrest in the case of Phoenix, the young pit bull set on fire in Baltimore last week.

Just today the number has climbed from $3,000 to $6,000 to $8,500 — it stands this moment at $15,500.

Here’s where the money has come from:

BARCS: $7,000 (donations from individuals)

Animal Control: $1,000 (from one private organization)

Humane Society of the United States: $2,500

Baltimore Humane Society: $5,000

$15,500 reward for stepping up and telling the truth. Whatever has been preventing people with information from coming forward, hopefully the almighty dollar will inspire them to do the right thing now.

Elsewhere in the Baltimore Sun, the hero cop who saved Phoenix from burning to death in the street is interviewed.

The investigation continues.

Added, 6-4-09: Reward now at $23,500.

Oh Screw

Phoenix had to be euthanized today due to her injuries from being set on fire:

Julie Hirsch, a nurse, told Unleashed that Phoenix was going into kidney failure. Her face and rear quarters, where most of the burns were, had swelled considerably and she wasn’t recognizable.

A few hours ago, nurses brought the one-year-old dog outside to be put down. They wanted her to be outside, not in a cage.

Thank goodness for the kindness she was shown at the end of her tragic life. More from Unleashed:

She touched the hearts of everyone that came in contact with her and anyone who heard her story. We can only hope now that someone will come forward so that there can be a conviction on this case.

BARCS has a reward set up called the “Phoenix Reward” where we are collecting money for anyone who can identify the young men responsible for this cruel act of violence. The reward at this time is at $3,000 and most likely will increase over the next few days.

To contribute to the reward fund, visit BARCS and specify your donation is for “Phoenix Reward Fund”. If the reward money goes unclaimed after 6 months, it will be turned over to the Franky Fund which was used to pay for Phoenix’s treatment and will help other homeless pets in need of care in future.

With fume of sweet woods, to the skies,
Pure as a Saint’s adoring sighs,
Warm as a prayer in Paradise,
Her life-breath rose in sacrifice!

– excerpt from “The Phoenix” by George Darley

Collateral Damage

There seems to be a continuous supply of “Pitbull set on fire” stories in the news. Like most other severe cruelty cases, I try to avoid them. We all have our limits.

But the story of Phoenix, a female Pitbull in Baltimore who was saved when hero police officer Syreeta Teel saw her in flames and put the fire out using a piece of her own clothing, caught my attention:

The Pit Bull was brought to BARCS [Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter]. Despite the severe pain she was in, she wagged her tail and looked for comfort from the BARCS staff members.


She has suffered horrific burns over 95% of her body. The fire stripped the fur and flesh from her small figure.


Phoenix has a long road ahead of her. Her injuries are vast and she is at risk for infection and in severe pain.
There is a reward of $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who are responsible for setting fire to the dog in Southwest Baltimore, in the 1700 Block of Calhoun Street, on Wednesday, May 27th. All tips are confidential. Call 410-396-4698 and ask for the Animal Enforcement Officer Supervisor at the Bureau of Animal Control.

I have no idea what motivated the sicko(s) who set this dog on fire. But I got to thinking. Baltimore has a history of BSL (now repealed). And certainly one doesn’t have to look too hard in the MSM to find sensationalized – and sometimes totally inaccurate – stories about Pitbull maulings. Is there a collective price to pay for demonizing an entire breed of dog based upon the actions of a small percentage of irresponsible owners? Phoenix can’t talk of course, but I sure would like to hear her thoughts.

To donate to the Franky Fund which is being used to pay for Phoenix’s care, please click here.