FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Pitbull, Breeze, and her two puppies are happy and healthy in their new homes. But their journey to get there was nothing easy.
On Nov. 4, Breeze was brought to the Marion County Humane Society after being found walking the streets of Fairmont. Staff took one look at her and quickly determined she was severely underweight and in bad condition.
“You could tell she had been contained somewhere because she had urine and feces and up her hips and her belly, and all the white in her on her back end was stained,” said Jonna Spatafore, Marion County Humane Society Director.
Breeze only weighed 36 pounds and had no fat; her bones were completely visible.
“There was nothing wrong with her. She had no medical issues other than starvation,” Spatafore said.
Animal Control and the Humane Society took her to the veterinarian where they confirmed Breeze had been neglected. The Humane Society put out a post on social media trying to find out who the owner was, and in less than 24 hours they knew who was responsible.
“I contacted animal control, they went the next day and took the two puppies out of the house,” Spatafore said.
Unlike Breeze, her two puppies were in great health.
“They were fed…we dewormed them they did have parasites, but they were not skinny not starving. They were fine,” Spatafore said.
The owner was charged and pled guilty to a misdemeanor of animal cruelty, paid a fine, gave up custody of the animals and is not allowed to have an animal for five years. But, that wasn’t enough for the Humane Society.
West Virginia code 61-8-19 of cruelty to animals states that for someone to be charged with a felony in this case they must prove intentional torture or mutilation which some see as a loophole for people to only be charged with a misdemeanor.
“A person who intentionally tortures, or mutilates or maliciously kills an animal, or causes, procures or authorizes any other person to torture, mutilate or maliciously kill an animal, is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be confined in a correctional facility not less than one nor more than five years and be fined not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000. For the purposes of this subsection, “torture” means an action taken for the primary purpose of inflicting pain.”– WV Code 61-8-19
“I understand that our lawmakers and our prosecutors have to go by the word of the law. I read intentionally torture a little different than what they do because to me, her sitting in a cage, not allowed out of it, no food, no water and two puppies in the house who were evidentially being fed, that’s torture to me. I think that should have been a felony. But it’s hard to prove. Torture’s hard to prove,” Spatafore said.
Years ago, the Humane Society saw a similar case unfold. Winston, a Yorkie dog was found in a bag. The owner was originally charged with a misdemeanor but was later changed to a felony.
Spatafore said, in her perfect world, animal cruelty would be a felony straight across the board.
“We don’t even have to provide them with adequate food water or shelter. If there’s empty bowls there that shows intention of food and water … that’s not animal cruelty,” Spatafore said
“I wish we could’ve charged more, but that’s not anything to say against the prosecutors or our magistrates or any of that, that’s just the way the law is, but I do sometimes wish we had stricter laws,” said Marion County Animal Control Officer TJ Van Pelt.
Spatafore said they don’t see a lot of cruelty at the Humane Society, but every once and a while, they do see some animals walk through the door that have been neglected.
“It is cruelty, but it’s to the point where they’re not fed or they’ve not gotten medical care,” she said about some of the animals she has seen. “All that is animal cruelty. We see that a good bit, and I don’t know how to change that. I have hope for the future.”
Officer Van Pelt said he hasn’t seen very many animals neglect or abuse cases in the county in his seven years on the job. He also encourages anyone who sees something that may need an investigation to give the Marion County Animal Control office a call at 304-694-1200.
As for Breeze, now she’s back to health. She gained a pound a day and got up to 69 pounds while in the care of her foster family.
“She needed somebody to help her, and we did, and it feels great to see her in her home and happy and playing with other animals and fat and getting what she needs,” Spatafore said.
Breeze and her two puppies have all officially been adopted by their foster families.
“Animals don’t ask for a lot so it’s nice to see them get what they need,” Spatafore said.