Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Alaska: April Gutierrez gets probation after letting her pregnant dog suffer with a rotted, broken foot full of maggots and dead puppies inside her

ALASKA -- A 49-year-old North Pole woman charged with causing severe physical pain and suffering to her pregnant and injured dog two years ago was sentenced Thursday to one year of suspended time and one year of probation.

The woman’s probation conditions also stipulate she not be allowed to own any animals or be around them without supervision.

According to charging documents, April Arlene Gutierrez was charged with animal cruelty for failing to care for her 2-year-old dachshund, Shebba, after the dog was hit by a car June 28, 2015.

Shebba’s left hind leg and right front leg were broken but Gutierrez let the dog suffer for a month until she started to chew her left hind foot off. 

Gutierrez and a friend took Shebba to Loving Companions Animal Rescue and staff there sent them to the Animal House Veterinary Clinic after they unwrapped Shebba’s foot and found it crawling with maggots.

Animal House staff discovered the bones and tendons of Shebba’s left rear foot were exposed, the flesh gangrenous and the foot was dangling and barely attached. The leg had to be amputated.

Shebba’s genital region was infested with maggots and a radiographic exam showed her puppies had been dead inside of her for about 48 hours, according to the complaint.

Dr. Deeanna Thornell, owner of the clinic, called Fairbanks North Star Borough Animal Control to report Shebba’s condition, and they in turn reported it to Alaska State Troopers.

Gutierrez had recently been evicted and troopers were unable to locate her until Dec. 16, 2015. She CLAIMED she didn’t take Shebba to the veterinarian because she couldn’t afford it but that the dog was fine, according to the charges.

A lighter sentence than hoped

Senate Bill 91, which was passed by the state Legislature in April 2016 as a way to reduce prison populations and recidivism rates by decreasing the penalties for a variety of crimes, prevented prosecutors from seeking a harsher sentence, Assistant District Attorney Allison Baldock said in an email Thursday.

“Generally under SB91, a court is not allowed to order either active or suspended incarceration in excess of 30 days for this class of offense.  However, as part of her plea, the Defendant also stipulated to 'the most serious' aggravating factor.  Because of that stipulation, the court was allowed to impose the maximum possible period of suspended incarceration.

“What the defendant did in this case was not only cruel, it was heartless.  Her treatment of the 2-year-old dachshund, Shebba, a sentient being who feels pain and experiences trauma, was sickening.

While the state would have liked to secure a sentence involving a period of actual incarceration for her conduct, that was thought to be very unlikely given that under SB91, even if she would have been charged with felony level animal cruelty, a court could not impose anything but suspended time for the typical offender.

“The State does, and will continue to, take animal abuse cases very seriously,” Baldock said.

Adjusting to a new life

Shebba was treated for her injuries and fostered for several months while she received rehabilitation and socialization training with the Animal Hospital’s trainer. The Douge family adopted her Dec. 22, 2015, and Shebba, renamed Lucy, is safe and happy in her forever home.

“They brought her out, and for me, it was love at first sight,” mom Heather Douge said, explaining that Lucy is “gorgeous” and looks very similar to her childhood dog, Pepper. “I said I’ll take her. She’s a good little girl and part of the family now.”

Douge said Lucy “does as good as she can and is happy with what she can do,” but definitely struggles physically.

“Missing that back leg hinders her getting over things,” Douge said. “She’s a dachshund mix and has short little legs anyway, but then you add missing a leg and being able to lift her one back leg over a shoe or something becomes very challenging.”

Lucy is able to run and is “quite quick for a three-legged little dog,” but can only run in short sprints. Long walks are hard for her so Douge sometimes carries her in a front-worn baby carrier.

Lucy is extremely nervous around cars and also needs to be the only dog in the family, but “knowing her trauma and her story, it explains how she responds to things,” Douge said.

Lucy gets along well with Douge’s children and husband, who are “very compassionate and loving toward her,” but her heart belongs to Douge. “I’m her person. When I come home, she makes a beeline to me and she has to greet me. She just howls and howls. She follows me around and sleeps in our bed, spooned up against our backs. I feel like she is in such the right place now.”

Assault - March 28, 2015

April Gutierrez, 46, of Fairbanks, was charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly punching a UPS delivery driver Feb. 9. The charge was filed Wednesday.

The victim told Alaska State Troopers that Gutierrez walked up to his truck on Persinger Drive and confronted him about a previous incident in which he hit Gutierrez’s son with his truck.

The driver was found to not be at fault in that incident, troopers said.

The victim told troopers Gutierrez climbed into his truck, yelled at him and punched him in the face. He said it gave him a headache and pain to his lower jaw once the adrenaline wore off.

(News Miner - June 13, 2017)


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