From: "Joanna Toms - PetAbuse.com" <jtoms@pet-abuse.com>
Sent: Thursday, June 10, 2004 6:31 AM

Woman faces trial for trying to save dogs

By REGAN LOYOLA CONNOLLY
The Leaf-Chronicle

http://www.theleafchronicle.com/news/stories/20040610/localnews/611989.html

She thought she was doing the right thing, but now Linda Stevens may spend
time in jail for rescuing two abused dogs in Virginia last August.

Stevens removed the two animals, a poodle-mix and Pomeranian, from a shed
behind a home in Jonesville, Va., where she said they were being kept without
water.

She was visiting her sister when she took the dogs.

"They were locked in the shed and it was well over 100 degrees," she said.
"There was feces up to your ankles, no light and there were maggots in
their food. I took the dogs out of that terrible situation because if I hadn't,
they would have died a slow, dreadful death."

The self-professed animal lover was charged with one count of grand
larceny for taking the dogs. If convicted of the crime during her July 29 trial,
Stevens could be sentenced to between one and 10 years in prison.

Stevens was arrested and spent 10 days in jail before being extradited to
Virginia. She has spent $5,000 defending herself; even though she admits
what she did was illegal.

She said she took the dogs because there isn't a dog shelter in Jonesville.

"I know what I should have done and what is legal, but when you see a
situation like that and you are acting on your emotions, your first instinct
is to save the dogs," Stevens said. "I should have done a lot of things
differently, but I had no idea they would lock me in jail for trying to save
two dogs. I did the wrong thing legally, but the right thing morally."

David Selby, director of the Montgomery County Animal Control and Adoption
Service, said even in an area that doesn't have animal control services,
there are people to call for help.

"Any law enforcement agency has the same authority as animal control," Selby
said. "If they see a violation of state law, they can charge someone as such."

Selby said it's not uncommon for residents to run across animals in distress.

"If (Stevens) felt those animals were in danger, I personally think she did
the right thing," he said. "It wasn't right as far as taking the animals.
She should have reported that."

Selby said animal control officers and law enforcement personnel are trained
in investigative techniques and know to gather evidence that proves animal cruelty.

Stevens should have taken pictures of the dogs and the place where they were kept, Selby said.

For now, Stevens said she will remain hopeful the charge is reduced to a misdemeanor
or she can reach a settlement.  She said she has offered the owner $5,000 for the dogs, but that offer has been refused. She also said she tried to have the owner charged with animal cruelty -- and even had three witnesses -- but the case was thrown out of court.

"I didn't do this for malice or for profit," she said. "I did it to save the dogs."

Stevens said she would encourage others who find themselves in a similar
situation to first call police or animal control for help, before taking matters into
their own hands.

"They should call police and ask them for help first before they act on
their emotions," she said. "But sometimes you just have to act to save the
animals. People need to know there are consequences for doing something like
this and I don't want anyone else to end up in this situation."

Regan Loyola Connolly covers courts and county government and can be reached
by telephone at 245- 0719
or by e-mail at reganconnolly @ theleafchronicle.com (remove 2 spaces)
(reganconnolly@theleafchronicle.com)


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