One would think helping a dog believed to be in need is doing the right thing. However, a recent court ruling in Virginia Beach, Virginia, may make you think twice.
It was there that Bettina Cuce Rodriguez on Thursday was sentenced to misdemeanor theft for taking a Pit Bull mix tied to a tree outside a trailer on the Eastern Shore in below-freezing weather, The Virginia-Pilot reports.
Rodriquez’ story began back in January 2015 when after being concerned with how the dog allegedly was neglected — and not being able to get the dog’s owner to improve the alleged conditions, to sell it to her or to allow for Animal Control to step in — she decided to take action.
With the help of Gordon Shell of Detroit, Michigan, and Charlene Boyajian, also of Virginia Beach, Rodriquez reportedly took the dog and sped away when questioned by a neighbor of the dog’s owner. The trio was also accused of giving the dog to others to get rid of the evidence and lying to police when their truck was pulled over by officers.
I never thought that I would ever be writing these words but due to a corrupt justice system and laws that protect the abusers and punish the protectors I will begin a 5 day jail sentence for saving the life of a dog that was freezing and starving to death. One day after the Ohio government voted in favor of puppy mills I am headed to a jail cell. Less than a 2 hour drive from where Michael Vick tortured and killed dogs for his amusement, I will be sitting in a cage. I accept what I did and I know I have critics out there that will try and judge my actions, go for it if it makes you feel better. I worked within the law for my entire time in this rescue world, I have worked with and have trained police departments but this was an extreme case that was ignored by local ASPCA, Humane Society and police, if action was not taken that day this dog would have died that night. To all my colleagues in rescue I warn you to be careful and I thank you for your service, to my friends and family, I apologize for any inconvenience this brings you, but if you are a friend or family you would know that I’m not one to turn a blind eye to abuse of any kind. While I am heartbroken and discouraged, I will continue my fight for the dogs, inside and out of the cage, my invite to Vick stands and we are working hard to make the fight happen in 2016. I will obviously be out of communication for the next 5 days but will give more details and plans to change this system upon my release. I have a tattoo that covers my back that says “At the end of pain is success” I live by that and know that the pain will end soon. Thank you to all of you that support me, to the others I wish you well. Thank you Gordon Shell.
Whether or not their intentions were good, Judge Revell Lewis III said he believed Rodriguez had “taken the law into her own hands” and acted as if she “was above the law,” according to The Virginia-Pilot. He also said the group’s actions “complicated matters” when they sped away and lied to police. Lewis sentenced Rodriquez to five days in the Accomack County jail, to serve 50 hours of community service with a local highway program and to pay a $1,000 fine.
“It was a complete shock,” Rodriguez told the newspaper outside the courthouse.
Shell reportedly entered the same plea and was ordered to also serve five days in jail and pay the same fine. Boyajian has not gone to trial yet. Initially charged with felony theft, the three could have received up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
“Motive cannot excuse, nor does it legally justify, criminal activity,” the judge said, adding the decision would be an example to others, the news organization reports.
The dog’s owner reportedly was not in court Thursday.
“It was fear. It was panic. It was desperation to get that dog out of there,” Rodriguez told The Virginia-Pilot. “I was very, very scared. I had never been in trouble before.”
Rodriguez reportedly would not say where the pup was, but confirmed he was living with a rescue family “and is healthy and happy.”