Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Dog Theft Draws Eyes of National Groups

April 12, 2005 Mike Gervais, The Inyo Register

BISHOP, CALIFORNIA -- Brian Vincent stands firm in his belief he did the right thing, despite the looming threat of jail time. "If I am convicted and if I do go to jail, I'm fully prepared to go on a hunger strike," said Vincent, a man whose unique story, which started here in the Owens Valley, has received international attention.

Vincent was arrested in February for stealing a small dog from a Chalfant Valley woman, who, Vincent alleges, was not taking care of the animal. A long-time animal rights advocate, Vincent - currently released on bond - faces a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail for what he describes as the rescue of a neglected dog named Tiger but what the Mono County District Attorney's Office considers "misdemeanor petty theft."

No trial date has been set in the case, and both the Mono County District Attorney and Animal Law - the San Francisco-based law firm representing Vincent - are trying to resolve the matter before it has to go to trial.

"The D.A. is doing a good job" in understanding Vincent's perspective and that of the dog's owner, said Vincent's attorney, Corey Evans. "There are discussions that would resolve the case," but no agreement has been met at this point. And besides, he added, "Vincent is more interested in the welfare of the dog than any criminal charges brought against him," Evans said. "I failed (Tiger) and that's what breaks my heart," Vincent said, despondent that the dog was returned to its owner.

The Mono County D.A.'s Office did not respond to multiple phone requests by The Inyo Register to comment on the case.

For now, animal rights activists across the country are going to bat for Vincent with a heavy letter-writing campaign in an effort to get the charges against him dropped.

The incident for which Vincent may or may not be prosecuted could have been avoided, according to Vincent and his supporters, had Mono County Animal Control authorities done anything about Tiger's living situation.

Vincent said his attention was first drawn to Tiger's predicament while he was staying in Chalfant in January. He said he was out for a jog one day and saw Tiger chained in a back yard in "poor conditions" and without water or food. According to Vincent, Tiger's fur was matted with feces and the yard near his shelter (a cardboard box with no insulation) was littered with sharp objects and dangerous chemicals.

"He just looked miserable," Vincent said. Tiger was kept on a five-foot chain "that looks like it should be on a bull," not a dog the size of Benji. "He just looked miserable," he repeated.

He went to the owner and offered to buy the dog, but, according to Vincent, she refused, so he offered to buy and erect a full fence around the yard, at no cost to the dog's owner, so Tiger would be able run free without being able to escape from the yard. Once again, Vincent said, the owner refused.

Vincent's next step to safeguard the dog was to contact Mono County Animal Control, he said. On two occasions, said Vincent, he was informed by Animal Control that the department had been "working with the owner for a year" to improve the dog's living condition, but refused to remove the dog from the owner's custody.

Concerned for about a month that no one was going to help Tiger, Vincent finally stole the dog from the owner. Later that day he was arrested by Inyo and Mono county officials for theft and incarcerated for three days in Inyo County Jail. He was later released on $5,000 bail and the charges were dropped to misdemeanor petty theft. "Initially, when it happened I needed legal" and financial help, Vincent said. So he wrote letters and made phone calls to friends and sympathetic organizations to raise money to hire legal counsel.

His words caught the attention of international organizations such as The STAND Foundation and PETA, as well as numerous individuals the world over who have a soft spot for animals. "Every day when I open my e-mail, there are at least 40 new messages," Vincent said, adding that he has received pledges for substantial donations toward his defense. Through donations, Vincent has been able to hire Animal Law, a firm based out of San Francisco that specializes in animal cruelty cases.

According to Evans, Vincent's attorney, there have been a number of phone calls and e-mails pledging money to Vincent's defense, including one promised donation of $1,000 from an anonymous individual. The attention that the case has received has gone far beyond financial aid for Vincent to high reaching legal help.

The STAND Foundation, based in Southern California, has begun a petition to boycott not only Mono County but Mammoth Mountain Ski Area as well. It is the organization's goal - as stated on its Web site - to have the Mono County Board of Supervisors dismiss the Animal Control director and the control officer involved in the Tiger case for "failing to safeguard" the animal.

"Clearly, (Tiger's) guardian lacks the empathy" to care for such an animal, Vincent said, adding, "I think this woman forfeited her right to own this dog … I think he deserves better."

Update: Brian has since relocated and continues with peaceful, legal activities to help better the world for animals.

Tammy Grimes fights on

October 24, 2007, Altoona, PA

Dogs Deserve Better founder Tammy Grimes will be back in court October 29th at 9:00 a.m. for a motion hearing to defend against the Blair County DA's attempt to bar her most-compelling evidence--video, photos, and vet testimony of the dog's condition--from the courtroom. Grimes was arrested September 11, 2006 after taking a dog--unable to stand for three days--for veterinary care; then protecting him from returning to the abusive situation.

Grimes maintains that there were clearly Pennsylvania cruelty laws being broken for at least three days by the time she arrived on the scene, and charges should instead be filed against the Arnolds for abuse and neglect.

She states, "We need to take a serious look at a justice system that favors animal abusers, and I would ask what kind of example this is setting for our children. We have ample proof of abuse in this case: neighbor testimony, vet testimony, video and photo evidence. If we as humans see an animal or human dying and in need of immediate help, it is our moral duty to help that being and protect him/her from further harm. A system that instead requires an abused child or animal to be returned to the situation in which the abuse is occurring is corrupt, and must be questioned and examined if we are to evolve as a society."

The dog, who Grimes dubbed Doogie, had been kept safe and lived inside as part of a family until March 1, 2007, when he passed away due to age and a lifetime of neglect. Doogie's body was returned to Altoona, Pennsylvania, where an autopsy was performed. The DA subsequently ordered the body to be held at the vet and returned to the Arnolds.

Grimes continues, "Barring my evidence from the courtroom may change the verdict in my case, but it will never change the truth. The DA knows that, and so do the supporters of our work at Dogs Deserve Better. I am confident that in the end the truth will set both Doogie and I free."

The Grimes case has made national headlines, and has been featured on Inside Edition, the National Enquirer, Animal People, animal magazines, and on blogs all over the internet.

Comment: The growing body of cosmopolitan law creates powers and constraints, and rights and duties, transcending the claims of nation states. The evolution of human rights law, environmental law and rules of warfare are examples of a shift from state-centered law to law above states. While the notion of international law assumes a system of autonomous states, the concept of cosmopolitan law rests on the realization that there exists a moral order and rights and duties that transcend state boundaries. Animal rights is one of the greatest social justice movements of our time.

Comment #2: Philosophers like Plato and Kant and students have debated the nature of moral responsibility since the beginning of time. Questions around ethics, laws, religion, and justice will never go away, and decisions when to act on one’s conscious, regardless of consequence, are different for everybody. If an agency’s responsible for protecting animal interests and welfare aren’t doing their job, citizens from all walks of life feel obligated to act. Throughout history, great leaders have said that we have an obligation to right injustices of law. If everyone howled at every injustice, every act of barbarism, every act of unkindness, then we would be taking the first step towards a real humanity.  ~Nelson DeMille, American author

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