Thursday, July 9, 2009

Chattanooga: Man who cut off dog’s ears pleads guilty

By: Monica Mercer

A woman looked out her window last May and saw something that horrified her.

“She called Chattanooga police and said she had just seen her neighbor cut the ears off his puppy with a pair of scissors,” said Capt. Dianna Burrow, who works for Chattanooga’s animal services division. “The lady was going nuts because of what she saw.”

Cutting off the ears, Capt. Burrow said, is a common practice among those who want to train their pets to fight other dogs. Dog fighting is illegal in Tennessee.

On Wednesday, Oswaldo Padilla Garcia, 23, denied participating in dog fighting but pleaded guilty to one charge of animal cruelty in Hamilton County General Sessions Court.

He reluctantly agreed to give up his now 19-week-old pit bull named “Rux” and must make restitution for the money spent to save the pup’s life. He also cannot be near any dog for one year.

Animal cruelty cases are common in Hamilton County, but Capt. Burrow said perpetrators rarely are caught in the act. It is not illegal to clip a dog’s ears, but the law requires the animal receive anesthesia and a veterinarian’s care.

Staff at the McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center said a dog quickly can bleed to death if large arteries in its ears are severed.

McKamey Executive Director Karen Walsh said that Mr. Garcia’s excuse for cutting Rux’s ears himself was that he couldn’t afford the vet bill.

Rux also came to court Wednesday, a well-behaved black-and-white dog who never barked and gently licked the hands of everyone who wanted to pet him. His ears had healed, but not without the help of the McKamey Center, which spent $1,200 to house him and treat his wounds.

“When (Mr. Garcia) saw Rux on the sidewalk, he started to cry and told me he never wanted to hurt him,” Ms. Walsh said.

But when authorities arrived May 16 at Mr. Garcia’s house on Clio Avenue, Capt. Burrow said they found Rux whimpering and still bleeding profusely all over the back yard. The dog’s detached ears and a pair of dull, rusty scissors were on the back porch covered in blood. Mr. Garcia was found in the attic.

“He knew what he did was wrong,” Capt. Burrow said.

She said police also found a “dark house” — a windowless dog house used to teach the animals to become aggressive and violent once they see daylight. Police believe the dark house is evidence that Mr. Garcia intended to train Rux as a fighter.

Capt. Burrow, who plans to adopt Rux, said Wednesday she was grateful the neighbor made the call that possibly saved the pup’s life. She said she cannot imagine Rux, whom she described as a “people lover,” ever being raised to kill other dogs or having to constantly defend his own life as a trained fighter.

“Once a pit bull is trained to fight and kill, there’s no changing them back,” Capt. Burrow said. “I mean, how could anyone want to do that to such a sweet dog?”