Friday, July 31, 2015

New Mexico: Vicious dog case gets pushed back again

NEW MEXICO -- A woman whose three dogs attacked a Ventana Ranch man and killed his dog while they were on a walk last April was supposed to face separate criminal charges Wednesday alleging she allowed two of her dogs to run loose several weeks after the attack.

But the public defender representing Maria Escamilla said he wasn’t prepared to go to trial, and Metro Court Judge John R. Duran agreed to continue the case until Sept. 15 – even though witnesses were in court and ready to testify.

Duran postponed the case, noting that the defense lawyer was “busy.”

Escamilla, who was also in the courtroom, is facing two counts of unlawfully allowing an animal at large. Instead of a jury, the judge was to hear the case. The role of prosecutor is being handled by the animal welfare supervisor who filed the charges.

The April 27 attack on Jack Cash and his dog, Duncan, prompted the city’s Animal Welfare Department to file an initial criminal case against Escamilla that is set for trial Aug. 21 before another judge.

In a related administrative proceeding, the city declared Escamilla an irresponsible dog owner after her dogs killed the Maltese and bit Cash, who said he also suffered a shoulder injury from trying to save his dog.

The criminal case related to that attack includes charges of keeping an animal known to be vicious and liable to attack human beings.

The second criminal case arose after Cash and his girlfriend, Jennifer Braziel, went back to the scene of the attack, near Escamilla’s house on Acton Court NW, on May 4 to take photos.

The couple reported to Animal Welfare officers that they saw a woman exit the home to take out trash. Two dogs from inside the home walked outside behind her. One of the dogs was a pug, and the other was a boxer; both were unleashed, the couple reported.

Duncan, who was fatally attacked
April 27 on a neighborhood walk, was
described as “10-1/2 pounds of fluff and love.” 

Under city ordinance, animals aren’t supposed to be off a leash, even if accompanied by an owner.

Animal Welfare Lt. Chris Romero told the Journal on Wednesday that a photo the couple took of the unleashed dogs was enough to establish probable cause to file the criminal charges against Escamilla, who has pleaded not guilty.

Two of the three dogs involved in the earlier attack on Cash were pit bulls, and the third was a boxer. Cash said it wasn’t clear whether the boxer he and Braziel saw on May 4 was the same boxer involved in the earlier attack.

Romero, Escamilla, Cash and Braziel all appeared for a trial on the charges Wednesday only to learn that assistant public defender Maxwell Pines wasn’t prepared to proceed. Pines said he hadn’t taken witness statements from Cash and Braziel.

Romero told the judge that discovery materials were furnished to the Public Defender’s Office on July 2. Duran, noting how “busy” Pines was, agreed to the continuance.

The Ventana Ranch attack prompted complaints from neighbors who demanded the three offending dogs be permanently removed from the home.

Jack Cash, pictured with his dog Duncan, questions why the
dogs that mauled the 2-year-old Maltese were returned to their home. 

That hasn’t happened, partly because there was no history involving the dogs or Escamilla in Animal Welfare files. City officials, meanwhile, are considering ways to strengthen the law.

The city also has declared the three Escamilla dogs as dangerous, which requires they be kept in a secure area and on a leash when outside the home.

Escamilla testified in the administrative case that she didn’t consider the three dogs involved in the fatal attack to be vicious.

(ABQ Journal - July 30, 2015)


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