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Ryn Gargulinski | Tucson Citizen | April 27, 2010

Tucsonan Nicole Schwartz learned life can be dramatically altered in as few as two minutes.

That’s the amount of time it took someone to steal Kobe, her English bulldog, from her locked car while she ran into a P.F. Chang’s to pick up her phoned-in order.

Since the April 15 theft, Schwartz has no longer been able to sleep at home – “It hurts too much to see his bed and toys and dog hair all over” – and has cried pretty much daily.

She’s also launched a community-wide movement to get Kobe back home.


Related information: Tips to protect your pet from theft

Dog fight pupKim Smith | Arizona Daily Star | April 7, 2010

A Picture Rocks woman who was acquitted of dogfighting and animal-cruelty charges in November 2008 still must forfeit the property where she raised the dogs.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Stephen Villarreal ruled Monday there was "probable cause" to believe the property, formerly owned by Emily Dennis, had been used to commit felonies for financial gain and for the breeding and selling of dogs for fighting and must be forfeited.

Dennis and her partner, Mahlon T. Patrick, were charged with two counts of dogfighting and 21 counts of cruelty to animals in February 2008, but Judge John Leonardo of Pima County Superior Court ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict them.

The 110 dogs seized from the couple were euthanized shortly after the couple was arrested; the county said the animals were aggressive or injured and could not be adopted.


Heather Rowe | KOLD News 13 | January 14, 2010

Instead of more answers, There are more questions about what is actually going on at an animal dumping ground near the Old Vail Road connection area -- a problem in itself that could be putting more animals at risk.


Brian Pederson | Arizona Daily Star | January 7, 2010

Oro Valley police and a local animal cruelty task force are looking for help in finding whoever shot a small dog on New Year’s Eve. The 11-year-old Whippet, whose name is Winchester, was found on Jan. 1 lying semi-conscious by a pet sitter visiting a home in the 10700 block of North Sand Canyon Place, near North La Cholla Boulevard and West Naranja Drive, said Liz Wright, a spokeswoman for the Oro Valley Police Department.


Joan Biskupic | USA Today | October 6, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court appeared poised Tuesday to strike down a federal law that makes it a crime to sell depictions of animal cruelty because the law sweeps too broadly and violates free speech rights.

In a spirited hour marked by wild hypothetical questions, a majority of the justices suggested by their remarks that they thought the disputed statute — used to prosecute a Virginia man who sold videos of pit bull fights — was too vague.

Justice Antonin Scalia questioned whether the law would cover videos of bullfights, which he said some viewers — "contrary to the animal cruelty people" — might believe "ennoble both beast and man." Justice John Paul Stevens asked whether images of animals hunted with bow and arrow might be covered.

Justice Samuel Alito, who seemed more sympathetic than most of the justices to Congress' efforts to ban animal abuse images, asked whether laws could target videos of Roman gladiators fighting to the death or even a "human sacrifice channel" on cable TV.

The case tests government's ability to ban images of vile or abhorrent conduct, not the conduct itself. The dispute has drawn wide attention because of public concern about animal cruelty, as well as the interest in preserving free speech rights.

Some justices, including Alito and Anthony Kennedy, suggested that a law might survive First Amendment scrutiny if it focused narrowly on the depraved activities Congress originally sought to target.

The 1999 law arose from congressional worries about "crush" videos, which depict women pounding high heels into small animals to appeal to a sexual fetish. Yet the law was crafted to cover all depictions of animal cruelty, beyond "crush" videos and unlawful dog fighting. There are exceptions for images having artistic or social value.

Yet, Justice Stephen Breyer noted, the exemptions are open-ended. "People … have to know what to do to avoid being prosecuted," he said.

A jury rejected Robert Stevens' claim that his videos had social value. He was convicted of selling depictions of animal cruelty and sentenced to 37 months in prison. He has not served time because of the appeal.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit declared the law unconstitutional, rejecting the Justice Department's effort to equate pictures of animal cruelty with images of child pornography, which can be banned under the First Amendment. It emphasized that although "acts of animal cruelty … are reprehensible," Congress cannot regulate pictures of those acts without treading on free speech.

Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal argued Tuesday that videos of dog fighting and other animal cruelty foster the market for such images and lead to more animal abuse.

"Congress had a bunch of testimony that showed that there was a robust market in animal cruelty videos, largely focusing on crush videos," Katyal said.

Chief Justice John Roberts said prosecutors might squelch valid images. "How can you tell that these aren't political videos?" he asked, noting that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) often uses pictures of animal abuse "to generate support for efforts to prohibit" such cruelty. Katyal said the law has not been used against videos with such political or social value. Robert Stevens is the first person who has been charged and gone to trial.

Patricia Millett, arguing for Stevens, said that not only does the law violate free speech, it has failed to discourage dogfighting. "If you throw away every dogfighting video in the country tomorrow, dogfighting will continue," she said. "No one thinks it will go away."

Justice Alito raised the possibility of Congress banning the hypothetical "human sacrifice" or "ethnic cleansing" cable channels as he tested the reach of its power against the worst images.

Just because a channel is "disgusting, despicable," Millett said, "doesn't mean that we automatically ban it."

By Kim Smith | ARIZONA DAILY STAR | Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.15.2009

A Pima County resident accused of running a dogfighting ring pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge of animal neglect.

Robert Clayton Smith, 57, admitted he didn't take one of his pit bulls to the dentist even though the dog's teeth were rotting. As a result, he will either be placed on probation or given up to six months in jail by Pima County Superior Court Judge Christopher Browning.

Smith was indicted in March 2008 on two counts of dogfighting, which is a felony, and 15 counts of cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor. All of those charges were dismissed Monday in exchange for Smith's guilty plea.

Smith and his co-defendant, Terry Williams, knowingly "owned, possessed, kept or trained" dogs with the intention of fighting them, according to the indictment. The indictment also accused the two men of inflicting "unnecessary physical injury" to 15 dogs.

The Pima Animal Care Center seized 22 dogs from Smith at the time of his arrest and all of the dogs were euthanized last year.

The entire case was "about killing the dogs," Smith's attorney, Joe Heinzl, said following Monday's hearing.

"There's a huge misconception in this society about the American pit bull in general," Heinzl said. "People who have multiple pit bulls are being painted with a broad brush, like they're Michael Vick." Vick, an NFL quarterback, was convicted in August 2007 of conspiracy and running a dogfighting operation and sentenced to 23 months in federal prison. He is now with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Smith's charges were based entirely on the "single vague statement of an informant," Heinzl said.

"He's basically been bankrupted and his dogs were destroyed by the government, the government that was trying to save the dogs from abuse," Heinzl said, using his fingers to draw imaginary quote marks around the word "save."

Smith is disabled and simply couldn't afford the $35 a day per dog fee it would have cost to board them during the duration of his case, Heinzl said.

Deputy Pima County Attorney Lewis Brandes said the dogs were kept alive for several months but ultimately were deemed unadoptable, either because of their viciousness or health issues. Some clearly showed claw and bite marks, Brandes said.

Smith was offered the plea agreement because of his declining health; he has been in and out of the hospital since his arrest, Brandes said.
Because of Smith's health he was allowed to enter his guilty plea by telephone. If he is well enough to come to court, his sentencing will be Nov. 9.

He told Browning his doctors want him to move to a nursing home.

The charges against Williams were dismissed because authorities didn't have sufficient evidence to prove he owned either the property or the dogs, Brandes said.

By Philip Franchine, Green Valley News

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A 2008 animal cruelty conviction against a Green Valley dog groomer was upheld Tuesday, the same day sentencing was delayed in an unrelated animal-neglect case.

A Pima County Superior Court judge upheld the Oct. 28 conviction of Carol Halstead, owner of The Groom Shop.

In that case, decided by Green Valley Justice Court Judge Gail Wight, Halstead testified that she failed to contact a veterinarian or the dog’s owner after a dog owned by Virginia Zenobi of Green Valley was attacked by another dog while in Halstead’s care and suffered at least one puncture wound.

Zenobi’s dog died shortly after he was removed from Halstead’s care.

Also on Tuesday, sentencing in a separate case in which Halstead was found guilty of animal neglect was delayed until July 30 because her lawyer, Carl MacPherson, did not appear in court and instead telephoned in for the hearing. In that case, Halstead was accused of allowing a dog in her care to be attacked by another dog and not contacting the owner, Elizabeth Moore of Green Valley, or a veterinarian.

Halstead, 56, of unincorporated Sahuarita, was found guilty in that case following a May 28 bench trial before by Green Valley Justice Court Judge Pro Tem Thomas Johnson. The sentencing was delayed Tuesday when Halstead said she wanted MacPherson present to advise her.

Plaintiffs in two civil suits against Halstead have been awarded thousands of dollars. One is in the Zenobi case and the other is for an incident in which a dog owned by Paquin White and kennelled with Halstead was attacked.

Halstead declined comment this week; MacPherson was unavailable for comment.

In the past, Halstead’s supporters have pointed out that thousands of dogs have been in her care without incident.

Superior Court Judge Jane L. Eikleberry on Tuesday issued a written denial of an appeal filed by MacPherson, saying “the evidence supports the trial court’s conclusion that the dog suffered injuries while under (Halstead’s) care that required treatment by a veterinarian.” She added that while Halstead “took steps to treat the injuries herself, she testified that she did not call a veterinarian, animal clinic or the dog’s owner.”

In the Zenobi case, Halstead was sentenced in November to 12 months’ probation, a fine and restitution of more than $4,000 and other sanctions.

Halstead remains under suspension by the American Kennel Club following several criminal violations in Nebraska in the 1990s. In May, she became eligible to end her 10-year suspension by the AKC, but she has not paid the $500 fine for violating the American Kennel Club Cruelty Conviction Policy and remains suspended, AKC spokeswoman Christina Duffney said.

The suspension means the AKC will not allow Halstead to use the club’s registration services or participate in AKC events.

Tim Vanderpool | Tucson Weekly | April 30, 2009

At first glance, Tucson Greyhound Park appears more worn out than wildly controversial. Over the past half-dozen years, annual attendance at this track has slid by more than 10,000 people, while bets have fallen by millions of dollars. And it shows...

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