Story text :ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Dozens of activists packed into the Florissant City Council meeting to try and reverse a ban on pit bulls, Monday night.
President of Missouri K9 Friends Mandy Ryan says at least 40 people showed up wearing orange shirts, and 33 emails were read, all from residents trying to get the council to reverse it’s ban on pit bulls.
The ‘dangerous dog ordinance’ in Florissant prohibits the ownership or harboring of a pit bull, unless the dog was already owned before a certain date. The ordinance began in 2010.
Ryan believes the ban isn’t helping public safety, she says there have actually been more dog fighting incidents in the area since the ban began.
Ryan says they will continue going to City Council meetings until the ban is repealed.
“We are making progress behind the scene,” Ryan says. “One of the council members did tell one of our members that they are talking about it.”
Mayor Tom Schneider said last year, the city attorney looked into the law and determined that Florissant has the authority to ban certain dog breeds.
Ryan says the turnout was ‘amazing’ and she believes they are getting closer and closer to their goal.
Read the full ordinance details on the city’s website, here.
The three men charged after a brutal attack on a dog Aug. 14 entered pleas Friday in Greene County Criminal Court to felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals.
Francisco Pultarco Flores, 33, Luis Hernandez Mendoza, 27, and Hector C. Mendoza, 25, were each sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Alex Pearson to one year in jail at 30 percent release eligibility, assessed a $100 fine and each ordered to pay one-third of the veterinarian bills incurred by injuries inflicted on a German shepherd named Smokey.
The men, who have been in jail since August, received credit for time served. Pearson also prohibited the defendants from owning or possessing any kind of animal for 15 years.
Francisco Flores and Luis Mendoza entered guilty pleas before Pearson. Hector Medoza entered a best interest plea, meaning he didn’t admit to the acts alleged by the state, but the plea has the same legal effect as if he was found guilty by a jury.
As part of a plea agreement reached between prosecutors and court-appointed lawyers representing the men, the state dropped felony charges of vandalism over $500 and theft over $500 filed against them in relation to the case.
Because the men do not speak English, a Spanish interpreter was in the courtroom to relay what was said.
Pearson held up court documents containing case details and had a similar message for each defendant:
“These are terrible facts against you and you understand that kind of behavior is extremely offensive not only to the court, but society in general,” Pearson told Luis Mendoza through the interpreter.
“Your actions are repulsive to the court and society in general and that kind of conduct is completely unacceptable,” Pearson told Flores.
The men are not U.S. citizens, and Pearson told them the felony convictions may affect their status with immigration officials.
The attack on the 7-year-old German shepherd happened Aug. 14 inside the men’s apartment in the 7900 block of Asheville Highway. It was interrupted by sheriff’s deputies investigating a drunk and disorderly call. Deputies arrived just in time to save the dog’s life, Greeneville-Greene County Humane Society representatives said after the incident.
Smokey lives on White Sands Road with Elaine and Lester Darnell. When a thunderstorm blew in on the night of Aug. 14, they were not home. Elaine Darnell said she and her husband returned to put Smokey inside the house because he is afraid of storms, but the dog had already jumped a fenced-in enclosure.
Smokey apparently ran about a quarter-mile to the 7900 block of Asheville Highway, where he encountered Flores and the Mendozas.
As deputies entered the apartment, they saw the three men in a rear bathroom, a report said.
When deputies opened a bedroom door, the three men turned toward them and a “shepherd- to medium-size dog came running from the bathtub,” the report stated.
The dog “had several cuts and punctures about its body,” the report said.
“One of the males was holding a bloody knife and the other was holding a long wooden stick, both being stained with blood,” it added.
The Darnells were unable to be in court Friday. Elaine Darnell said that Smokey has recuperated from his wounds.
SMOKEY ‘DOING GOOD’
“He’s doing good. He’s got a little bit of scar tissue on his back and a little bit of scar tissue under his neck but otherwise he is doing good,” Darnell said.
Elaine Darnell said she was told Thursday that one of the defendants was going to enter a plea on Friday, but was surprised to hear all three men did so.
“I hope they send them back to where they were, and I wish they had given them a longer sentence,” Darnell said.
Smokey was bleeding profusely after being rescued by sheriff’s deputies and was rushed to a local veterinarian. Elaine Darnell said she is grateful to the community for the outpouring of concern and support after the incident.
“It’s unbelievable anybody would do anything like that. It’s also unbelievable everybody was so nice about paying Smokey’s (vet) bill and asking about him,” Darnell said.
Aggravated cruelty to animals is a Class E felony carrying a sentencing range of one to two years.
“I wish the sentences had been more strong, and I wish the other two felonies against them hadn’t been dismissed,” Darnell said.
Arresting sheriff’s deputies had their theories, but none of the three defendants ever revealed why they brought the dog into their apartment and attacked it.
“There’s a lot of barriers with this one,” including language, said Greeneville lawyer Brandon Potter, who was appointed to represent Hector Mendoza.
Smokey is his old self at home, but Elaine Darnell has noticed a subtle change in the dog’s behavior when groups of people are nearby.
“He doesn’t act any differently around us, but at the vets or where there are a lot of people around he has a different demeanor,” she said.
Ten men were arrested Tuesday and Wednesday and charged with dog fighting and selling drugs in the Onslow County area.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina announced Wednesday that a grand jury had indicted the men. The indictment accuses them of placing bets on dog fights, sometimes as much as $100,000 on a single fight.
Seven of the men were charged with conspiracy to violate the animal welfare act, according to the indictment. They are: Lewis Edmond Andrews Jr., 41, and James David Martin, 38, of Maple Hill; Ronnie Jeremy Thompson, 39, Aaron Richardson, aka “Jit,” 41, and Mark Anthony West, 53, of Jacksonville; Leo Chadwick, 63, of Hubert; and Cedric Gerard Cook, 38, of Fayetteville.
Andrews and two men from Maple Hill – William Jay Farrior, aka “Bo,” 36, and Randall Jacob James, aka “Slim,” 32, – were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, crack and heroin. West also was charged with distributing crack within 1,000 feet of Jacksonville Senior High School.
The tenth man, James Leslie Golden III, 46, of Ayden, was charged with a misdemeanor alleging he attended two dog fights.
The federal Animal Welfare Act makes it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison to fight dogs or to possess, train, sell, buy, deliver, receive or transport dogs intended for use in dog fighting.
When the men were arrested, law enforcement officers searched four properties where they suspected there were dogs and drug paraphernalia.
During the searches, 156 dogs were seized, and officials asked the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to care for them at a temporary shelter. The ASPCA also was assisting with evidence collection and forensic examinations of the dogs, according to the indictment.
The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jacksonville Police Department and Onslow County Sheriff’s Office. Additional assistance was provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Wilmington Police Department, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, N.C. Highway Patrol, N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Howard will prosecute the case.
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