Yesterday I had to be in court in Tyrone, PA, on two charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct for my failed attempts to help this Bellwood, PA dog. Read my previous blogs for more info, or get caught up on the case here: http://dogsdeservebetter.org/papoliceabusepower.html
Since these were just summary charges (think traffic tickets—only more annoying—and majorly trumped up at that), I chose to act as my own attorney.
In hindsight, it’s a good thing I didn’t go to law school; then I would have no excuse for the way I get chewed up and spit out in the courtroom.
They couldn’t find any reason at all to convict me on trespassing (It wasn’t for lack of trying), as I had photos of the dog standing smack-dab beside the curb of the street.
The magistrate had to drop that charge.
The cop had no direct knowledge of anything that happened that night. Just the word of his ‘witness.’ And this is what they spend tax-payer dollars on…arguing?
He claimed that he called my house to discuss the situation with me before filing charges to get my side of the story, but that is untrue. He said there was no answering machine, but we have two. One takes a message if no one is on the phone, and the other picks up if we’re on the other line. Either way, if you call our home, you will hit an answering machine. He never called, never left a message.
I showed the above photo to the officer to point out how close to the street the dog was, and asked how I could possibly be trespassing with her on the curb.
He said that I could have taken the photo from BEHIND THE DOG.
I’m not even lying about that. Seriously!
How could I POSSIBLY take THIS PHOTO from BEHIND the dog? Bwahaha.
I had to educate the officer on the law with regards to photographing dogs, and, well, anything in the public domain. It is allowed by law as long as it can be photographed and is visible from public property.
This officer thought I had to have the owner’s permission to photograph the dog. Not true.
I’m pretty sure I had the dog’s permission to photograph her, though. A dog who has spent her life tethered is happy for just about any kind of attention that isn’t doing her physical harm. She was sweet, a bit shy, and so attention-starved (and food-starved) it made me sad.
In order to make me sound more criminal, the officer claimed that his witness told him I was “Doing Something With the Dog.”
He made sure to repeat this twice, to ensure that the judge knew just how ominous my behavior was.
I believe that is called “Petting,” Officer.
Here’s the definition in case you run into it again: To show affection through caressing or stroking: i.e. to pet a dog.
On the disorderly conduct—which I like to call “arguing without a purpose”—it was my word against the word of his witness, which is why I saw no point to going to court in the first place.
Good Lord! What she accused me of doing was so ridiculous and over the top that my husband Joe couldn’t contain himself any longer and started cracking up.
Which of course made me want to crack up too. But I know that judges get pretty irate when people laugh in their courtroom, so I tried to keep a handle on the cackling.
She even accused me of threatening to call Children in Youth (or whoever it is, I’m not sure who she said) about her kids having dirty clothes. I would imagine all kids would have dirty clothes in the summer…that means they’re playing. I never even noticed.
I do remember telling her kids that I felt sorry for them that they had to grow up believing this was any kind of way to keep an animal. And I don’t regret that for a minute.
Based on her testimony, either A: I had a blackout and turned into Darth Vader for no apparent good reason, OR B: she was lying through her teeth.
I’m going with B.
Keep in mind, this woman was NOT the dog owner. She was the neighbor across the street. I don’t know her from Adam, don’t care to know her, and I would have no reason to talk to a stranger.
In fact, one of my issues is that I’m incredibly shy in person, and have a very hard time talking to people I don’t know. Logic would tell you that no single woman would go up to a group of four people, two men and two women, and start verbally accosting them out of the blue. Why?
Calling them names? How do you call people names you don’t even know. Wouldn’t you need to at least be angry at them before you took that step?
On and on it went. When I had the chance to question her, she denied the things I knew to be true.
1. The young man, Zach, stated on our facebook page that his uncle is a Bellwood cop. Even though she said she was related to Zach in some way, neither she nor the cop would admit to being related or knowing anyone on the force who was related to them.
2. Denied that Zach almost physically accosted me, but she and her mother or whoever she was pulled him away. She did say he got about five feet away from me (when I walked up to him, yeah, I’m going to walk belligerently up to a young man I don’t even know and what, threaten to beat him up?) at which point in time she went up and ‘gently touched him on the arm to have him back up.’
3. Denied standing in the road, breaking the law of obstructing traffic, when I was trying to drive away. [PA 5507. Obstructing highways and other public passages. (a) Obstructing.–A person, who, having no legal privilege to do so, intentionally or recklessly obstructs any highway, railroad track or public utility right-of-way, sidewalk, navigable waters, other public passage, whether alone or with others, commits a summary offense.]
The magistrate wouldn’t give me the time of day about any claims that the charges were filed seven days after the supposed offenses in an attempt to ‘get even’ with me for inspiring so many phone calls about the dog’s condition to the Bellwood police. The officer did admit to getting a lot of phone calls, but wouldn’t say how many.
The magistrate acted like I had no legal authority to be there, to take photos, or to advocate on behalf of the dog. He was obsessed with the fact that I didn’t call the police. I told him truthfully that it didn’t even cross my mind.
But I not only have the legal authority to advocate on behalf of any dog or child who is suffering, I have the moral obligation to do so. And so do you.
After twelve years of working with and for chained dogs, I have an expertise in the field of chaining and the cruelty laws that most people don’t have. I can look at a dog’s situation and tell instantly if the situation would break existing cruelty laws (if anyone bothered to uphold them), and if it’s worthwhile to even attempt to get the dog legal help.
That’s always a big IF.
What I didn’t tell him was that the reason it didn’t cross my mind is because my personal interaction with police has ALWAYS landed on the side of the abuser. 100% of the time.
(Make that 95%. I do remember one time a state policeman went to a home that had no doghouse in Cambria County, PA, and forced them to buy a doghouse. That was something, anyway.)
This is just another case in point.
The magistrate had absolutely no respect for me as an animal advocate or a human being. He acted like I was just a sheeple who is obligated to hand over every interaction on a dog’s behalf to authorities.
But I’m not, and neither are you. We have the power of the people to bring action on behalf of dogs. We don’t have to listen to those in positions of power who expect us to shut our eyes and obey.
Hitler thought that way too, didn’t he?
I broke no laws that night, and they trumped up offenses to punish me. That is the bottom line.
I received a $50 fine and court expenses in the hundreds. It cost me $177 for the two constables to come and pick me up at the Bellwood police station, handcuff me, and drive me to the magistrates office 5 miles away.
The total they expect me to pay is in the neighborhood of $470.
I informed the judge that I’m not willing to pay and requested jail time.
He refused. He said I have to wait until I’m in violation for not paying and they put out another warrant for my arrest. And then something about requiring an attorney. Which I won’t hire. So we will be back at square one again.
It all gets very exhausting, but I firmly believe it’s necessary and I’m obligated to continue to practice passive resistance on behalf of animal activists the world over; and one Bellwood dog who still deserves better.
We do have the power of the people, and we are in the beginning stages of changing the world for animals. Those of us currently on the front lines must stand strong in the face of ridicule, abuse of power, and lies by those in control. It’s the only way change has ever been made in this world.
We taped the hearing yesterday, but I haven’t yet had the courage to listen to it and subject myself to their lies and abuse a second time. When I do so, if it is of decent quality and it makes me laugh, I’ll share some of the best parts with you all.
I believe in the power of laughter to uplift and renew. If I couldn’t laugh at the stuff that happens to me later with my husband Joe, I don’t think I would have lasted nearly this long.
My favorite funny of this whole incident so far has been the dog owner calling me “an old fat whore hog” on facebook. Obviously, it doesn’t get much more offensive that that, but it’s so damn funny, that sometimes I just roll laughing thinking about it.
On the bright side, my husband Joe made the four hour drive to support me yesterday, proudly wearing his shirt with the Dogs Deserve Better emblem. He has been at every single hearing or difficult situation within driving distance that I’ve had to face down since we started dating five years ago. I will never be able to express how much his support has meant to me through all this.
And, an adopter from Blandburg, PA, Taylor Hinckley, came to the hearing to support me. She gave me the below card and a photo of the dog she adopted from Dogs Deserve Better.
Just when I feel so diminished and down and out from the abuse the system hands out to me for speaking up, God sends an angel to lift me and remind me that I have value and have had many successes on behalf of those without a voice.
Thank you, to both Joe and Taylor for showing me people can still be good. I needed that.