Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Woman gets probation for abusing pit bull puppy

A southwestern Illinois woman avoided jail time and got a year of probation after admitting she mistreated a pit bull puppy found emaciated in a trash can, an electrical cord embedded in his neck.

Tracia Johnson of Cahokia was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty to one count of animal cruelty. Other misdemeanor counts were dropped.

Prosecutors had pushed for Johnson to spend 60 days in jail.

 Authorities say the abuse surfaced in October 2009 when a trash collector found the then-9-month-old pit bull in a trash can. Besides the electrical cord in his neck, the dog's body was bruised and burned, and he was 20 pounds underweight.

The dog, named Tommy, survived and made an appearance with animal-welfare advocates outside the courthouse Wednesday.

Chicago Tribune 

Update June 10, 2010 3:10am - The following article is by Beth Hundsdorfer of

Owner of abused, abandoned pit bull gets probation; 'She got off easy for what she did to him,' new owners say

BELLEVILLE -- Tommy the pit bill, who was found beaten, starved and discarded in a trash can eight months ago, stood outside while his former owner, Tracia Johnson, pleaded guilty in court Wednesday to animal cruelty and received a one-year probation sentence.
Tommy came to the St. Clair County Building with his new owners, Sue and Tim McGowan, to protest animal abuse. Inside, St. Clair County Associate Judge Laninya Cason accepted Johnson's guilty plea. Cason then sentenced Johnson to one year of probation, during which time she cannot own any animals, must complete 250 hours of community service, and forfeited her $1,000 bail.
Assistant State's Attorney Benjamin Henning asked for 60 days in the county jail.
Johnson, 34, declined to comment after the plea.
"She got off easy for what she did to him," Tim McGowan said after he learned about the terms of the plea.
"It should have been a felony," said Jackie Spiker, founder of Hope Animal Rescues in Alton, who helped save Tommy. "If the judicial system would have reviewed the law, she should have faced a felony charge."
A trash collector found Tommy emaciated and injured in a trash can in back of Johnson's home at 503 Mildred Ave., in Cahokia. The dog had an electrical cord embedded in his neck, his body was covered with bruises and burns, and he weighed only 30 pounds -- 15 to 20 pounds less than a healthy dog his size.
Spiker remembered the first time she saw Tommy.
"I covered him in a blanket and I was going to pick him up, and the two animal control guys told me that he was going to bite me right in the face," Spiker said. "As I went down to get him, I was thinking, 'Oh God, don't let him bite me. Don't let them be right.' But I picked him up, and he just melted into my arms."
Tommy was immediately taken to the Horseshoe Animal Hospital. When a veterinarian went to remove the embedded cord around his neck, Spiker said Tommy began to lick the vet's face.
"He was in so much pain, but he knew the doctor was trying to help him," Spiker said.
Spiker said Tommy has scars on the outside, but his behavior wasn't affected by the abuse. He has never showed any signs of aggression, and lapped up the attention brought by the media coverage of the case, Spiker said.
"He felt like he was the center of everything," Spiker said. "He was the reason for the party. He's still that way."
After months of rehabilitation, Tommy was put up for adoption. Hope Rescue received 47 applications, but one stood out. On the application under breed, applicant Tim McGowan wrote, "Tommy the-never-to-be-trashed again Pit Bull Puppy."
The McGowans got the dog Dec. 13.
Tommy now plays on six acres near Lenzburg with his two canine sisters, a Labrador Retriever named Dixie and a shepherd mix named Little Bit. His favorite toy is a chew toy.
"He hit the jackpot and we hit the jackpot," McGowan said. "He's such a sweet guy. He's well-adjusted, now that he knows what love is."
When a reporter asked McGowan what he thought Tommy would say to Johnson if he could speak, McGowan was quiet for a moment, then said, "How could you do this to me?"

Update June 10, 2010 10:20am - The following article is by Chad Garrison of Riverfront Times:

Tracia Johnson: Sentenced to Year Probation for Leaving Tommy the Pit Bull for Dead in Trash
The dog was found clinging to life in a trash can behind a Cahokia home last October.

An electrical cord tied tight around its neck had grown embedded into the skin. The dog was starved, bruised and beaten. Veterinarians didn't know whether the animal would survive.

Eight months later the pit bull -- renamed "Tommy" -- finally had its day when its former guardian Tracia Johnson was sentenced Wednesday to a year probation, 250 hours of community service and the forfeiture of her $1,000 bail.

Animal advocates had wanted the St. Clair County judge to mete out a harsher sentence. Still, they took solace in knowing that Tommy has survived his mistreatment and moved onto a much better life.

At yesterday's sentencing, Tommy was on hand outside the courtroom with his new owner, Tim McGowan, who bested dozens of other applicants who also offered to adopt Tommy.

"He hit the jackpot and we hit the jackpot," McGowan tells the Belleville News-Democrat. "He's such a sweet guy. He's well-adjusted, now that he knows what love is."

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