By Josué Monroy
SACRAMENTO – Jose Vaca was sentenced to 180 days in jail when he pleaded no contest to animal abuse and cruelty charges in Sacramento County Superior Court this week after authorities discovered a reckless dog breeding operation at his home.
But Jose Vaca was lucky.
Emmanuel Martinez was sentenced to one year in county jail after he pleaded guilty to felony malicious and intentional animal cruelty, and admitted to the enhancement that he used a dangerous weapon during the commission of the offense.
The weapon admission makes the animal cruelty charge a strike offense under California’s Three Strikes law. After serving his jail time, he will be prohibited from owning, possessing or residing with animals for 10 years.
The DA’s office said Martinez was seen beating his dog with a two and one-half foot long, one inch thick stick in December 2018. Officers found a young female shepherd, named Mamacita, with a bloody nose and left eye swollen shut. The dog was seized for medical treatment.
According to the DA, Martinez was arrested “but later made bail with a condition he not possess any animals during pendency of his case. When he failed to appear for his scheduled preliminary hearing in April 2019, a bench warrant was issued.
“Martinez remained outstanding for 16 months until he was featured by Sacramento Valley Crime Stoppers. Two weeks after the crime alert was issued, he was found with two dogs and re-arrested on September 1. Both dogs were seized at the time of his arrest and are in the process of being re-homed,” said the DA.
Mamacita, the victim of the beating, recovered at Front Street Animal Shelter and was re-homed.
In Vaca’s case, authorities found that animals suffered from ailments relating to inbreeding practices and were severely neglected—Vaca refused to give them urgently-needed medical attention. One of the dogs was said to have bitten off its own foot, and the gruesome details were shared by Deputy District Attorney Hilary Bagley in front of Judge Michael W. Sweet.
According to court documents, on November 6, 2019, Elk Grove Animal Control was contacted by the Elk Grove Fire Department, that had responded to a small house fire. After containing the situation, firefighters noticed the presence of several dogs on the property that were in a state of extreme neglect and in poor physical condition, prompting them to report their findings.
Upon arriving, Animal Control personnel determined that a “Bully” breeding operation was taking place at the residence.
DDA Bagley, whose unit specializes in animal cruelty cases, said that selective dog breeding is a common practice that seeks to accentuate desirable traits of certain breeds by pairing animals in which those traits are dominant.
Bullies are a breed that is derivative of the American Pitbull Terrier. They’re known for having large heads, short and stout frames, as well as short limbs. There is a niche market for the breed, and a dog can go for up to $6,000.
Five animals were found at the defendant’s residence, and all showed signs of inbreeding and genetic issues. These included various deformities, poor conformation detrimental to their health, and medical issues that were not being addressed by a veterinarian.
One of the dogs had such a large head, and was so low to the ground, that when it walked it would fall forward, causing it to bite its tongue constantly and develop lacerations.
When asked to clarify inbreeding practices by Judge Sweet, DDA Bagley explained that although inbreeding was not illegal, it required that special medical attention be given to animals that develop health problems as a result. Maintaining the practice can be very expensive.
One of the dogs was a male breeder missing a foot, which had been removed by “amputation” by the animal itself after it had gotten stuck in the wires of its cage. The animal chewed its own foot off because of the pain, explained Bagley. Vaca neglected to seek any proper medical and veterinary care for the injury, and it became infected.
“All of this resulted in needless suffering and cruelty upon the animals,” argued Bagley.
Other dogs had untreated eye and ear infections, as well as deformities that obstructed their windpipes and required surgery. All of the dogs had angular limb deformation commonly seen in Bully breeding.
Vaca, through a Spanish-language interpreter, acknowledged the court proceedings and charges against him with short yes or no answers.
“You willfully, unlawfully, and in a criminally negligent manner had custody of five bulldogs, inflicting unnecessary cruelty on the animals that endangered their life, a felony,” said Judge Sweet, addressing the defendant.
Vaca pleaded no contest to PC section 597(b), animal abuse, which incurs a mandatory 180-day jail sentence and five-year felony probation. Judge Sweet will give the defendant an option to do work release in lieu of jail time, and Vaca is no longer allowed to own animals.
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