Sentence in animal cruelty case set for Nov. 20; old dog died of exposure
When cold people open their back door and feel a shock of freezing air, they usually can turn right back around and into their toasty house.
For many Grand Valley pets, though, getting to proper shelter is impossible because of neglect by, or ignorance of, their owners.
A recent case, set for sentencing later this month — in which an older dog with limited access to water literally laid its head on the step of its doghouse and died of exposure, its chain tangled and shortened — has local animal services officials sounding the call about pet neglect as the season turns colder.
“There have been several high-profile cases — where someone beats their dog or whatever — that are real obvious,” said Mesa County Animal Services Director Penny McCarty. “But what we see the most of are these kinds of cases.”
The woman in this case is Jill Johnson, 2938 U.S. Highway 50, in Grand Junction. Johnson was charged with a number of counts of animal cruelty, but worked out a plea bargain, in which she pleaded guilty to a single count, McCarty said.
The Johnson case is years in the making. Animal Services began contact with her in 2010, according to a case report, to check on the condition of Johnson’s cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, geese, ducks, chickens and goats.
Through 2011, Animal Services made a number of visits to the Johnson home, specifically to check on a burro that reportedly was thin and neglected.
On a visit in December last year, an officer happened upon Carma, an older golden, red Lab and Chow mix — not moving, laying with its head in the front of its doghouse, a tangled chain wrapped and tightened between it and its collar.
A bucket nearby with about an inch of ice was the only water source for Carma and another dog, the report states.
A necropsy performed found advanced cancer in the dog. A doctor’s report stated, “Advanced cancer takes months to develop; however, at this stage of a neoplastic disease it takes very little stress, such as exposure to the cold, to cause death.”
Officers asked Johnson about Carma’s condition, and she said the dog recently appeared sick. She said they had not considered taking Carma to the vet, opting instead to “purchase some canned food for her.”
Because of the dog’s age, and illness, the vet who performed the necropsy on Carma concluded, “An animal in this condition, if not treated for the advanced cancer, would require prudent care and feeding in order to survive.”
Since Carma’s death, Johnson has had two other dogs die, according to her case report — one euthanized for a medical issue, the second a 6-year-old presumed to have died because of kidney or liver failure brought on by dehydration, according to veterinarians.
“Often, we hear from the public, saying we’re not doing anything. Well, for us, we have to build these cases. It just may take us six months or so to get it into court,” McCarty said.
Johnson is scheduled for sentencing Nov. 20.
Animal Services is recommending that Johnson allow periodic inspections of her home, not obtain any new animals for two years, attend a humane education class, and do a fair amount of community service.
“I think because the treatment of the animals went on for so long, that hopefully there will be an impactful amount of community service hours,” McCarty said, “so that she’ll make that change with her other animals.”
Johnson could not be reached for this story.