The Killings of Samson and Epic

As with every story, there are two sides.  We’ll look at both after starting with a summary from the local paper on Ocala, Florida on the facts that appear to be undisputed:

What most people agree on is that at about 3 p.m. on Aug. 12, Samson, a male Great Dane, and Epic, a female, slipped through their owner’s yard when one of the family members accidentally left open a gate at their Pecan Drive Court home in Silver Springs Shores.

[…]

Between 5 and 5:30 p.m., Chris Monteiro fired two rounds from his Glock 9 mm pistol into Epic, striking the animal once in the back and once in the left side of the neck.

Epic died shortly thereafter.

What’s also known from veterinary and Marion County Sheriff’s reports is that Samson, the larger of the two dogs, was shot once in the nasal passage, after which the bullet lodged into the back of his neck.

Samson died at an emergency clinic later that night.

Monteiro first dialed 911 after he said the two dogs tried to attack him while he was working on his car in his garage.

He told the 911 operator that there were children outside in his neighborhood and he was afraid for his safety and theirs.

“And if I can’t get ’em out of here I’m gonna shoot one of them,” he told the operator, according to 911 transcripts.

The operator told him to stay inside his home and that someone would arrive to help.

But he didn’t stay inside. According to a statement he gave sheriff’s deputies and the Star-Banner, he went inside and came out again, but this time armed with the pistol. He continued to work on his car.

From there, we get divergent accounts.  Mr. Monteiro says the dogs began heading for the children who were playing outside.  He yelled for the mother to get the kids indoors and then the dogs turned and charged toward him.  He stayed in his yard and when they reached the edge of his property, he shot them both at a distance of about 10 feet.

“The dogs were full-on attacking me,” said the 32-year-old Monteiro.

Law enforcement investigators found that Mr. Monteiro acted appropriately.

An eyewitness to the killings, Kim Dethloff, has a different version of events.  She says there were no children playing outside (they were inside a screened-in porch where Ms. Dethloff was visiting).

Monteiro told the 911 operator during a second 911 call after shooting the dogs that “[the dogs] were chasing the kids down the street.”

According to Ms. Dethloff, the dogs left the neighbor’s yard and headed in Mr. Monteiro’s direction but toward a field, not directly at him.  Samson and Epic were not behaving in an aggressive manner nor were they bothering anyone.  Mr. Monteiro went out into the street and shot the dogs.

The dogs’ owner hired an attorney who claims there are other eyewitnesses who corroborate Ms. Dethloff’s story.  The lawyer is attempting to persuade the State Attorney’s Office to charge Mr. Monteiro.  As of September 3, there has been no response to the request.

From the information contained in the article, it seems to me that the entire situation would have been avoided if Mr. Monteiro had simply followed the instructions given him by the 911 dispatcher.  He could have remained safely in his home until authorities arrived and picked up the dogs.  If the dogs truly were menacing neighborhood children and chasing them down the street, we need to hear someone besides Mr. Monteiro say so.

To my mind, the fact that Mr. Monteiro ignored the simple directive to stay inside but chose instead to go back outside with a Glock, indicates there is reason to investigate the details of the case further.  In addition:

Necropsy photos and reports obtained by the Star-Banner showed one shot entered Epic’s back and exited the dog’s stomach area. The photos also show where the dog was shot on the side of the neck.

If Epic was 10 feet from Mr. Monteiro and charging toward him, how could she have been shot in the back and in the side of the neck?  That sounds like a dog running away, not charging straight at the shooter from a distance of 10 feet.

It’s unclear to me how law enforcement could have determined Mr. Monteiro’s actions were appropriate given that his version of events is contradicted by at least one eyewitness.  I hope authorities will at least conduct a more thorough investigation and share their findings with the public.

Friday Debate

A family moved out of their foreclosed home in Los Angeles leaving a dog in the house and another in the garage.  Neighbors heard them crying and called AC for help.  AC refused to enter the home:

“Possibility the people could come back and then they could turn this around and sue the city,” explained Animal Services Officer Hoang Dinh.

The city is required to give a written warning to the owners before entering the home or removing the dogs.

A man named Hans Peterson went into the home and rescued the dog inside.  As he was walking out, he was arrested for “interfering” with AC.

So are you on Team Hans or Team No Government Entry to Private Property?

Dogs Illegally Seized in SD

In September of last year, a group called Second Chance Dog Rescue, along with HSUS, seized 172 dogs from a breeder in Turner Co, South Dakota. The entire investigation and seizure was riddled with problems – of the U.S. Constitution variety – and a pdf detailing the case can be found here. A judge ruled this week that the seizure was illegal.

At the time of the seizure, HSUS stated it was “collecting evidence” and removing dogs. Now that the raid has been deemed illegal, HSUS appears to be walking back its involvement:

“The request that was made to us was specifically for handling animals and so that is what we come in under was that an actual request for physically handling those animals, and not developing the case,” Senior Director of the HSUS Puppy Mills campaign Stephanie Shain said.

Anyone have an HSUS decoder ring to figure out exactly what they are saying here?

Tuesday, the HSUS told KELOLAND News it was simply asked by Second Chance to help with the removal of Christensen’s 172 dogs and did not have any involvement in the case, obtaining the warrant or making sure what they were doing that day was legal.

I’m not a lawyer but don’t all of us, including HSUS, have an obligation to make sure what we’re doing is legal every day? I mean, even if we’re just walking down the street, we’re supposed to make sure we are complying with the law and especially if we are entering someone else’s property and taking their dogs.

If someone is allegedly committing animal cruelty, I am 100% in favor of conducting a legal investigation and, if that investigation yields criminal charges, prosecuting to the full extent of the law. But these kind of shenanigans? Oh hell no. If we allow illegal searches and seizures, what will faux law enforcement animal groups like HSUS do next? I don’t want to find out and I’m glad the law is being upheld in this case.

Action Alert for SC Pet Owners

The SC Legislature is continuing to work on S0223 – a bill which amounts to extortion of pet owners accused (not convicted, mind you) of animal cruelty in the state. A few changes have been made to the language since I first blogged on it, but the substance remains the same:
Anyone charged with animal cruelty or dogfighting (Note – this latter is a presumption on my part. The bill states “Chapter 24 of Title 16” but there is no such Chapter. Chapter 27 of Title 16 is the Animal Fighting and Baiting Act and since dogs are routinely seized in those cases, my guess is that “Chapter 24” is a typo.) and whose pets have been seized can be charged a monthly fee by the organization housing the pets. Specifically:

The court shall set the amount of funds necessary for thirty days’ care after taking into consideration all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including the need to care for and provide for the animal pending the disposition of the litigation, the recommendation of the custodian of the animal, the estimated cost of caring for and providing for the animal, and the defendant’s ability to pay.

For each 30 day period the case remains unresolved, the fees are automatically renewed. The defendant must pay the court determined fees every 30 days.

  • If the defendant can’t come up with the money each month, he loses rights of ownership to his pets. The custodian is then allowed to adopt them out or kill them as they see fit.
  • If the defendant’s case eventually results in a not guilty determination, he still has to pay all the fees, current through the day he was cleared of charges. (If the custodian hasn’t withdrawn every last penny from the account, the defendant can get a refund of any leftover funds.) If he can’t come up with the money, he loses his pets. The custodian is then allowed to adopt them out or kill them as they see fit.
  • And of course, if the defendant is ultimately found guilty and has been paying the monthly fees all along, he loses rights of ownership to his pets. The custodian is then allowed to adopt them out or kill them as they see fit.

Wait, there’s more! Now how much would you pay?

Any person violating the laws in relation to cruelty to animals may be arrested and held, without warrant, in the same manner as in the case of persons found breaking the peace.

And as a special bonus:

Individuals from humane type groups can be deputized with the power to arrest without warrant, seize animals and take custody of those animals. Then you gotta pay ’em.

For an idea of what the courts deem a reasonable fee for seized dogs, we can look at the recent Wilkes Co, NC case where 127 Pitbulls were seized. In that case, the fee for 60 days worth of “care” for the dogs was $53,000.

I’m not sure where the bar has to be set these days in order to motivate pet owners to take action but this bar’s in the dirt. Contact your elected representatives and let them know, politely and respectfully, that this bill is wrong for South Carolina:

Members of the House

Members of the Senate

Sponsor:
Senator Lourie
601 Gressette Bldg.
Columbia, SC 29201

e-mail: JBL@scsenate.org
Phone: (803) 212-6116

County Fails to Convict Alleged Dogfighter, Goes After Property

In AZ, Pima County is trying to seize property belonging to Emily Dennis:

Dennis was arrested in February 2008 as part of a major investigation by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office and the Humane Society of the United States into a multi-state dog fighting ring. Officers raided four separate properties, seized hundreds of dogs and arrested six people, including Dennis.
But Dennis and her partner Mahlon Patrick were acquitted by Judge John Leonardo in November. 

Acquitted.  So what up with the land grab?

County officials said that just because Dennis was acquitted of the charges doesn’t mean she wasn’t breaking the law.

Deputy County Attorney Kevin Krejci said there is nothing unusual about pursuing civil forfeiture of assets, even when a defendant has been acquitted of criminal charges.

Now I didn’t go to law school but as I understand it, acquitted=not guilty.  If  county officials think someone is guilty of violating the law, there’s a remedy for that.  It’s called prosecution.  How it goes (on TV at least) is the county conducts an investigation, collects evidence, obtains an indictment, presents the case in court and asks the judge or jury to accept the case as having been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  If the prosecution fails to convince a judge or jury of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant will be acquitted.  

I appreciate there are two sides to every legal case and that one side will inevitably be unhappy with the outcome.  And I understand that a civil case is different from a criminal case.  But I am a strong supporter of individual property rights in our country and I  get concerned when government appears to be attempting to subvert our 4th Amendment rights.

The defendant response:

Thomas Higgins represents Emily Dennis.

[…]

According to court records, the Pima County Attorney’s office is pursuing a civil forfeiture case against two pieces of property. One of them is located in Picture Rocks, just west of Tucson.

[…]

These empty kennels are where the more than one hundred pitbulls taken last year used to live.

Note:  All but a handful of the dogs were killed before the owners had their day in court.  

Back to the attempted property seizure:

Thomas Higgins says the state will have a hard time proving the property has illegal ties. “I sent them an extensive packet of the money trail about where the money came from to buy it.”

I don’t like the idea of government failing to make its case legally and so pursuing property seizure in civil court.  It gives the appearance of our government attempting to use its resources (our resources) to pursue individual citizens whom they were unable to obtain legal convictions against and strip them of their property rights.  To my mind, if the government is conducting an investigation into criminal activity like dogfighting, they should take the time to do it right and present a solid, evidence based case in court.  I am all for convicting and punishing scumbag dogfighters to the full extent of the law.  

I’ve always held our government to the highest possible standards because we the people demand it.  I want to respect our government officials and to be treated with respect by them.  By necessity, that includes respect for our rights as property owners.