SPCA animal cruelty investigators confiscated the animals after another dog died at the property in the Pleasant Grove neighborhood.
The civil court custody ruling Thursday came three weeks after the SPCA received a complaint about two emaciated dogs at the home.
Investigators testified that Reyna Pina and her husband told them they were renting the property and renovating the home. Piña and her husband did not show up for Thursday’s hearing.
SPCA Cruelty Investigator Staci Kimberlin first went to the home on November 15th. Kimberlin testified that she found two pit bulls tethered without food, water or shelter.
Kimberlin also said she was shocked to discover two horses in the garage, also without food.
On November 15th, Kimberlin told FOX 4 she could not do anything more than leave a notice on the door, because the animals were still alive.
“Right now, at this particular moment, nothing,” Kimberlin said. “I can’t do anything. If I went to a judge and said this is what I’ve got, I want to take these animals right now, it wouldn’t be enough.”
The investigator said the conditions had not improved, but he said he spoke with Piña in person. He said Piña claimed she fed the animals twice a day and promised to give the animals proper care.
Even after this second visit, the SPCA still did not have grounds for a warrant to seize the animal.
"Still didn't have grounds for a warrant?" Says who?
“The animals were active,” Kimberlin explained. “There was no indication whatsoever that these animals were in need of emergency seizure. Unfortunately, by the 30th, with no contact from the owner whatsoever, that wasn't the case anymore for the one dog.”
Two weeks later on November 30th, the SPCA obtained a warrant and found one of the pit bulls, described as the one with a dark blue coat, dead inside the garage. They immediately seized the rest of the animals.
|Alive and starving on November 15, by the time |
the SPCA returned to the property TWO WEEKS LATER,
he had starved to death. His face pleads for help.
“It was very heartbreaking,” Kimberlin said.
HOW THE SPCA F'D UP THIS CASE AND FAILED THESE ANIMALS
You're a humane investigator. You respond to a complaint at this property and you see skinny dogs tied out with no shelter, no water, no rabies tags on collars. You find skinny horses locked in a garage.
You can't get anyone to answer the door so you leave a note. Hopefully, you've given the dogs some food and water (food that you always keep in your vehicle as well as water if you can't get a spigot to work at the house).
Two days go by and you don't get a response from your notice so you return. This time Reyna Piña answers the door and tells you that the animals belong to her husband. Hopefully you advise her that she is co-owner of the animals and therefore also responsible for them. Hopefully you ask her why they didn't bother to contact you after you left the notice TWO DAYS AGO.
Reyna Piña tells you that they feed the animals "twice each day". You tell her to show you their food. She either will tell you she "just ran out" or she will show you some food. Based on your training and experience, if she pulls out a 50-lb bag of dog food, either she is LYING about feeding them twice per day or she is telling the truth which may mean the dogs are infested with internal parasites.
If she shows you an empty trash can with bits of horse grain in the bottom and tells you she "just ran out", you ask her to show you the empty feed sacks. Most people keep them and use them as trash bags. If she can't show you any empty feed sacks, she is LYING. Is there any hay? If these horses are locked in the house's garage 24/7, they need to have hay to eat. What about their water trough? Is she filling it? Hopefully, you asked how old the horses are, when was the last time they'd been seen by a vet, when was the last time they'd gotten their teeth floated, when had they purchased the animals?
Based on their lack of response to your notice AND the fact that conditions haven't changed at all - even though they knew you'd been there, you give them 24 hours to improve the conditions for the dogs - always have water for them. You tell her you're going to stop by and do a random check and if the dogs don't have water, you're going to write them a civil citation.
|Look how loose that collar is. That tells you how much|
weight this poor dog has lost since it was put on its neck.
You tell Reyna Piña that she has 72 hours (3 days) to get both dogs to a veterinarian to be checked out -- meaning weighed, examined, checked for internal parasites. You tell her you WILL be following up with her AND the vet to verify this was done. If it isn't done, she will be issued a civil citation.
You also tell her that she has 72 hours (3 days) to get the horses examined by a livestock veterinarian. You tell her you WILL be following up with her AND the vet to verify this was done. If it isn't done, she will be issued a civil citation.
The next day you return and check the animals' water sources. If there is no water or their buckets are tipped on their side, you issue a civil citation. If the owner is home, you make THEM go get the water for the animals. If they're not home, you provide them with water.
*Note: The point of civil citations is that you get them into court and you build your case of animal neglect by showing that you've tried repeatedly to get them to comply without resorting to taking their animals (i.e. property). This will help you when you go to the judge to get a seizure warrant.
You return the 2nd day and check again. Document all of this.
On the third day, you check to see if Reyna Piña and her husband had their animals examined by veterinarians. If you cannot confirm this, you return to the property until you can reach the owners. This also gives you a chance to check on the animals to see if they're gaining weight, being provided with proper shelter, if they have water to drink, etc. THIS ALL GETS DOCUMENTED to support your seizure warrant. Also, the animals are not suffering and dying because you are first documenting that they are not being cared for and then you are documenting that YOU are the one providing care to them - not the owners.
You do NOT let weeks go by without doing anything. You give them 72 hours, maybe 96 hours TO DO SOMETHING and when they don't DO SOMETHING, you seize the animals. I don't want to hear excuses about how they tried, that they're short-handed, that they work different jurisdictions, that they have to give these abusers a "chance", etc.
"Do or don't do; there is no try."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The veterinarian said the surviving dog, a red and white pit bull, was very thin and had intestinal worms.
The younger horse, a one-year-old brown sorrel colt, was very thin and had intestinal worms. Its hooves were also chipped and cracked.
The black quarter horse mare, around three to five years old, was thin and had a lame left leg. The SPCA said an x-ray revealed the horse had a nail stuck in her foot, causing “significant pain.”
After hearing this testimony, the judge agreed that the animals had been cruelly-treated and awarded custody to the SPCA.
The property landlord, Antonio Lemus, attended the hearing with the former homeowner Debora Henderson.
“I saw what it said online about it on FOX 4 News and called him, and so we said, we better go up here to see what's going on,” Henderson said.
Lemus speaks little English, but he told investigators he had no idea Piña and her husband were keeping animals on the property.
“That lease said they weren't supposed to have any animals there,” Henderson explained. “I think that [Piña] had every opportunity to remedy the situation…Those are living beings. They have feelings. I think she should be held accountable.”
The judge also ordered Piña to pay $2,199.90 in restitution, but the SPCA said in a statement that it does not expect to receive any of that money to offset the cost of the investigation and care of the animals.
The SPCA said separate, criminal animal cruelty charges are pending against Piña.
In the meantime, the SPCA shelter workers named the three surviving animals: “Buck” for the dog and “Pirate” and “Treasure” for the two horses.
“I'm happy with the outcome of this simply because we want these animals to get better,” Kimberlin said after the hearing. “Especially the red pit bull, he turned out to be an absolute sweetheart, and I can't wait for him to find a good home.”
The animals will be put up for adoption in the coming weeks.
(Fox4 - Dec 9, 2016)