Tales of Animal Abuse

· Pima County Sheriff's Department investigators accused Chris Faw, 14, of using a tree branch to sodomize Prince, a 7-year-old toy poodle, in September 2002. Prince was euthanized as a result of his injuries.

The poodle was mutilated while inside its fenced yard in the 6800 block of East Lightning Drive, a housing area on the Davis-Monthan Air Force base. Judge Theodore Knuck ruled to "suppress identification" of a female witness, age 9, and charges against the 14-year-old boy have been dropped "without prejudice," which means charges can be re-filed if more evidence is obtained.

Three teens are believed to have been involved in the attack, although Faw was the only one arrested.

· On Sept. 16, 2002, a neighbor reported seeing Yanik Staley, 29, hit a dog on the head with a hoe several times in the back yard of his home, in the 1300 block of North Euclid Avenue.

He also allegedly picked up the small, white-mixed boxer by the hair, threw the dog on the ground and punched it repeatedly in the head. The dog escaped several times, only to be dragged back and beaten again.

What's especially disturbing about this case is that Staley was arrested on animal cruelty in July 2000 when he was accused of shooting a neighbor's dog and cutting its head off in a neighborhood dispute.

For the more recent case, bail was set at $5,500 at Staley's initial court appearance that afternoon; he was released from jail the same evening. The case is still pending

"That case was continued indefinitely for some reason we're not aware of," says Det. Mike Duffey, co-chair of the Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona. "The people from the Humane Society who were on the list of witnesses for that case were told to disregard their subpoena, and (that) they would be issued new ones in the future."

· On the evening of Aug. 11, 2002, someone mutilated three black rabbits in a private residence in northwest Tucson--before setting their hutch on fire. The family was on vacation and their housesitter was gone.

The three show rabbits belonged to a 15-year-old girl involved in a 4-H program that teaches kids about animals.

Rural Metro fire fighters discovered the dead rabbits. Two were together; another was alone in the cage.

The crime is being investigated as both an animal cruelty case and as an arson case--a higher level felony--with a $1,000 reward.

· In June 2002, Tucson police officers went to the home of 30-year-old Alejandro Gutierrez on a domestic violence call. When they arrived, they found that his pet dog and cat had been beaten to death with a bat. Gutierrez's wife told officers her husband had killed them intentionally. Gutierrez was booked for investigation of misdemeanor counts of domestic violence and criminal damage, plus two felony counts of animal abuse. He posted a $3,800 bail.

According to Kathleen Mayer, ACT co-chair and the supervisor of Pima County Attorney Office's Special Victims Unit, Gutierrez was sentenced to 60 days in jail, followed by three years of supervised probation, a fine and other domestic violence-related conditions

· Earlier this year, a Pima County rancher found three of his cows with bullet holes in their heads and throughout their bodies. One cow was found dead in January 2003; the other two were found on Valentine's Day. All three were mother cows, and one was shot about 24 times. The rancher said that whoever killed his cattle also vandalized his property, shooting out a water tank and two portable toilets.

"We think it was a precursor crime," says Duffy.

With a $1,000 reward offered, the Pima County Sheriff's Department and the Department of Agriculture's Livestock Division are investigating the cattle killings.

· In January 2002, Trinidad F. Moraga Jr., a 21-year-old laborer, was walking through a southside neighborhood when a young shepherd mix named "Big Ears," walked up to Moraga and sniffed him. Moraga allegedly responded to the friendly dog by pulling out a .40-caliber handgun and shooting the dog in the forehead. The dog died instantly.

The dog's owner had let her pet outside just moments before she heard the gunshot. She went outside to find the animal in the street, bleeding. Moraga reportedly continued walking down the street; officers arrested him about two hours later.

And Moraga ended up getting away with it, assuming he actually did it.

"We ended up dismissing that case because we could not actually prove that it was he who fired the weapon," says Mayer.

Though there were reportedly two witnesses according to police reports, when prosecutors actually spoke to the witnesses, they clamed they didn't actually see the shooting.

"That was too bad (that) we had to dump that one," says Mayer.

· Eastside residents are worried that their pets are in danger as gory stories about dead and missing animals keep surfacing in their neighborhoods.

"We tend to see a lot of strange killings or mutilations, particularly of cats," says Marsh Myers, of the Animal Cruelty Task Force and the Humane Society.

An area around East 22nd Street and South Swan Road heading toward Kolb Road is notorious for animal abuse. Myers said reports of animal cruelty in that area have been common in the six years he has worked at the Humane Society.

Countless cats once seen roaming the neighborhood have disappeared. Many cat remains have been found dumped on front lawns. Every year, there are more stories of animals being shot--with missing parts of their legs and being found skinned or hanged. Some people have found cat heads on the hood of their cars or on their doormats.

"Usually, those sort of things are really about people's inability to get along and the animals get caught in the middle," says Myers.

One resident recently found her cat with a bullet in its leg. That resident had previously lost two cats in the neighborhood--one was found in an alley decapitated, and the other disappeared around Halloween 2001.