Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Convicted Felon Gets Jail Time for Animal Cruelty in Albemarle County

Buttons worn be activists picturing one of the poor Pitbulls.
Today I witnessed some amazing testimony by some brave individuals as they faced down a convicted Felon in the Albemarle County General Court. Eric Johnson, a known animal abuser since 2007, was finally told by the Judge he is not to own animals and was sentenced to 12 months in jail. He also had to pay restitution to the Albemarle County SPCA for their care of his three dogs when they were seized on one of the coldest days recorded in this county's history during the Polar Vortex of 2014.

Mr. Johnson is not unfamiliar to law enforcement in Nelson County a Sheriff's Deputy testified that he had previously investigated his residence in 2007 finding short tethers and neglect. Mr. Johnson's current neighbor who coincidentally was a retired Animal Control Officer and is currently employed in the Animal Welfare field was concerned about the neglect of the three dogs tied out in the yard on chains or discarded electrical cords to various devices such as a log and electric meter box. Last year she had offered to help Mr. Johnson by providing him with FREE dog houses constructed by the volunteer agency HOWS (Houses of Wood and Straw). Mr. Johnson declined and therefor his outside dogs were never under shelter. There was no shelter provided at all for these poor dogs. When the polar vortex hit, it was all the neighbor could stand, to see these animal freeze to death so Animal Control was contacted and the dogs were seized. Mr. Johnson was given back a 7 month old pit bull, adult pit bull, and very pregnant pit bull awaiting his appearance at this trial.

Today, the Judge backed the Commonwealth Attorney's argument that the 7 month old pit bull was treated the most cruel, having a chain as a collar that had wrapped around his neck several times (twisted with fishing line and an electrical cord complete with outlet plug) unable to get to an empty water bowl that was out of reach. It was also reported by the Sheriff's Deputy in Nelson County that he found a dog on such a short tether at Mr. Johnson's house in 2007 that the dog had to live standing on his dog house because if he was on the ground it would hang the dog to death.  The SPCA vet testified that the dogs were miraculously in good condition given there was no food or water or shelter provided for the dogs, but that if the very pregnant dog would have given birth to puppies in the 10 degree temperature outside, they would have all died.

This is the first trial that I've witnessed in Albemarle County and I have witnessed many animal cruelty outcomes (in another county in Virginia) resulting in only a slap on the wrist. I was relieved to see a trial where justice was finally served.  I was impressed that this matter was taken seriously and time was spent to review the facts (a 1.5 hour trial with 8 witnesses). The message was clear, DON'T MESS WITH OUR PETS in Albemarle County! Mr. Johnson will spend one month in jail (11 months were suspended), has to reimburse the SPCA $1872.00, incurred penalties of $50.00 X 3 for lack of rabies vaccine and $30.00 X 3 failure to have the dogs licensed, and $250.00 X 2 for failure to give proper care according to VA Section 65-03 X 2, a Class 4 Misdemeanor. All maximum penalties according to state law. One dog (with the chain tether) was deemed the worst treated of the three and landed Mr. Johnson a cruelty conviction with jail term. He is to pay his $2600.00 bill by December or will have to serve his 11 months suspended sentence.

I congratulate Animal Control and the neighbor that had the balls to do what was right and stand up for those that can't speak. It took great strength and guts for her testimony. She is a true hero to me and I hope will inspire others to stand up when they see an injustice and not just turn their head. I was also happy to find at least 15 citizens in protest of his actions in the court room.

On a side note, Mr. Johnson sold the pit puppies on Craigslist between the time the pregnant dog was returned to him and this trial. I hope he made more than $2,600.00 and spending a month in jail was worth it.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...