September 11, 2004

I thought I would share with you the latest on the animal abuse case here in Whatcom County, Washington. The local animal control agency, SSP, released the Shihtzus and Boston terriers that had been seized from Billie Paul back to her not long after they were confiscated last May. Before the animals were taken, the prosecuting attorney, Mr. Peter Dworkin, told me that the only way the animals would be released to Billie would be at his direction; SSP could not release the animals back to her without his explicit order. He also assured me he would keep me up to date on any further developments.

The dogs at Billie's Bullies were subjected to real horror and abuse that went way beyond neglect but Mr. Dworkin chose not to exercise his prosecutorial discretion and charge Paul and Stumblingbear with Class C Felonies. Rather, he limited the charges to misdemeanors, in spite of RCW 16.52.205, which defines animal cruelty in the first degree:

(1) "A person is guilty of animal cruelty in the first degree when, except as authorized in law, he or she intentionally (a) inflicts substantial pain on, (b) causes physical injury to, or (c) kills an animal by a means causing undue suffering, or forces a minor to inflict unnecessary pain, injury, or death on an animal."

Surely no reasonable person can claim that deliberately starving an animal to death does not cause substantial pain, or that starvation such as Mojo succumbed to was not a means of death which caused undue suffering. Yet this is exactly what Mr. Dworkin contends. He explained to me personally that beating an animal or shooting it with a bow and arrows would be intentional cruelty but deliberately starving an animal to death was not the same thing. All I have to say to that, is that while killing an animal by beating it to death or by shooting it with a bow and arrows is certainly cruel, at least it is overwith more quickly than starving an animal to death.

It was only over the 4th of July weekend that I learned that the dogs had been given back to Billie Paul not long after they were seized, and that only a few days after getting the dogs back, Billie made good on her promise to leave the state with the dogs; she fled to Attica, Kansas, a small town about 75 miles from Wichita. The prosecuting attorney, in spite of his assurances to me that he would keep me aprised of any developments in the case, never contacted me about this.

As I understand it, Billie left notes with both her attorney, Mr. Steven Kozer, and with SSP stating that she was sorry to have to do this, but she would die without her dogs and they would die without her. (The pregnant female shihtzu had a litter of five puppies while in SSP's custody, but one puppy died. In addition, another dog died wihile in SSP's custody. Billie claims that dog was euthanized without her consent.) She also stated unequivocally that she will not return to this area for the trial or for any reason.

While it is extraordinarily maddening to know that this horrible individual has managed to get away with abusing other animals, it is just as horrifying to know that she not only got the other dogs back thanks to the prosecuting attorney, but she has fled the state and will never be held accountable for her inexcusable actions. She is intent upon resuming her "breeding" operation in another state, and the only agency that could have done something to prevent that, the Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney's office, and Mr. Peter Dworkin in particular, permitted it.

Mr. Dworkin was advised on repeated occasions by myself and by several other individuals that if Billie got the dogs back, she would flee the state. We told him more than once that she had made her intentions clear again and again to anyone who would listen. He knew that it was imperative that this woman who was responsible for the suffering and deaths of other dogs not be given back any confiscated animals, but he ignored that. He told us that the jail was simply too crowded and if Billie made bail, she couldn't be held anyway. Because she was such a clear flight risk, we asked Mr. Dworkin about the possibility of placing Billie under house arrest and fitting her with a monitoring device. He stated that that was "an option", but obviously, he didn't take it seriously. Mr. Dworkin, being warned that she would do this very thing, sounded incredulous at the very thought and said that he sincerely doubted she would leave the state, as she was out on $1500 bond, and would forfeit that if she didn't show up for court. Since this individual was facing six counts of animal cruelty, $1500 was nothing in comparison to penalties she might face if convicted. By way of clarification, let me make it perfectly clear that Mr. Dworkin never intended to pursue the full penalties allowed by law. Certainly our jail is overcrowded, but if Billie Paul were not going to face incarceration, then surely she and Danny Stumblingbear could have received the other maximum penalties allowed to be imposed by law, all of which would have actually generated income for the county!

RCW 16.52.080 states the following: Transporting or confining in unsafe manner -- Penalty. Any person who wilfully transports or confines or causes to be transported or confined any domestic animal or animals in a manner, posture or confinement that will jeopardize the safety of the animal or the public shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. And whenever any such person shall be taken into custody or be subject to arrest pursuant to a valid warrant therefor by any officer or authorized person, such officer or person may take charge of the animal or animals; and any necessary expense thereof shall be a lien thereon to be paid before the animal or animals may be recovered; and if the expense is not paid, it may be recovered from the owner of the animal or the person guilty.

Furthermore, "Every person convicted of any misdemeanor under RCW 16.52.080 or 16.52.090 shall be punished by a fine of not exceeding one hundred and fifty dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding sixty days, or both such fine and imprisonment, and shall pay the costs of the prosecution."

RCW 16.52.200 (3) states that "in addition to other penalties imposed by the court, the court shall order the forfeiture [not the temporary withholding] of all animals held by law enforcement or animal care and control authorities under the provisions of this chapter if any one of the animals involved dies as a result of a violation of this chapter... If forfeiture is ordered, the owner shall be prohibited from owning or caring for any similar animals for a period of two years." (4) "In addition to fines and court costs, the defendant, only if convicted or in agreement, shall be liable for reasonable costs incurred pursuant to this chapter by law enforcement agences, animal care and control agencies, or authorized private or public entities involved with the care of the animals. Reasonable costs include expenses of the investigation, and the animal's care, euthanization, or adoption."

(5) "If convicted, the defendant shall also pay a civil penalty of one thousand dollars to the county to prevent cruelty to animals. These funds shall be used to prosecute offenses under this chapter and to care for forfeited animals pending trial."

(6) "As a condition of the sentence imposed under this chapter or RCW 9.08.070, the court may also order the defendant to participate in an available animal cruelty prevention or education program or obtain available psychological counselling to treat mental health problems contributing to the violation's commission. The defendant shall bear the costs of the program or treatment."

If Mr. Dworkin had an ounce of real concern for animal cruelty issues, he would have taken this case more seriously. He would have believed us when we told him over and over again that Billie Paul intended to flee the state with any dogs she could get her unclean hands on so that she could resume the self same practices that she had been arrested for in another state. Perhaps Mr. Dworkin did believe us, but hoped that Billie would flee the state, sparing him the trouble of dealing with her. Whatever the case, he demonstrated his utter lack of regard for animal cruelty issues and for the heinous criminal acts perpetrated on helpless, innocent animals by Billie Paul and Danny Stumblingbear (whose whereabouts are unknown).

Meanwhile, SSP, the so-called animal control agency that refused to take the bulldogs that were dead and dying on their first call to Billie's Bullies, or on the second call, continues to operate in our county as though nothing were amiss. I have been in contact with the County Council and one of the council members in particular has shown great concern for the mishandling of this case and has assured me that the council, which oversees SSP, will investigate the matter further. Whether this holds true remains to be seen.

October 24, 2005

I am very pleased to be able to report that our County Executive, Mr. Pete Kremen, has personally advised me that when SSP's contract to provide animal control in the outlying areas of Whatcom County is up in June of 2006, it will not be renewed. Thank you Mr. Kremen and the Whatcom County Council!