For The Madera Tribune
Harry the dog, later renamed Frankie, rests after getting stitches for wounds suffered from animal abuse.
A $2,500 reward has been paid by The Friends of the Madera Animal Shelter volunteer group to the person who identified the owner of a neglected, injured and starving poodle mix puppy.
The three month old puppy was found in June of 2015 with a tightly wound rubber band around his muzzle, cutting deeply into his flesh and preventing him from eating or drinking.
Friends group president Velvet Rhoads said she hoped that the ongoing reward fund raised by the volunteer group would encourage other residents to report suspected cases of animal cruelty.
“We are happy to reward people who do the right thing for the sake of animals. Animals can’t speak up for themselves. This was a terrible case of cruelty and who would have known the outcome had this witness not had the courage to come forward,” Rhoads said.
The dog’s owner, Ana Vences-Zarco, 49, had initially taken the injured, five pound puppy to the Madera County animal shelter in June of 2015 and claimed to have found it, already injured in a nearby park.
Vences-Zarco was later identified to police as the owner after witnesses came forward and one testified that they had seen the dog in her possession near the 900 block of A Street, often confined for days outside in a small plastic dog crate. The witnesses said they had often fed the skinny, matted puppy and thought Vences-Zarco, or her family members might have placed the rubber bands around the puppy’s muzzle to keep it from barking and drawing attention to it’s close confinement.
The injured puppy, initially named Harry, required immediate surgery to remove the tightly wound bands, infected tissue and more than 20 stitches to close the wounds circling his muzzle. Shelter staff were shocked and horrified by the filthy, matted, injured and emaciated condition of the puppy. The puppy remained for weeks at a local veterinarian as they monitored his recovery, the infection and healing of his wounds.
On Aug. 12, Vences-Zarco plead guilty to felony animal cruelty. As part of her conditional plea deal, Vences-Zarco will serve 100 hours of community service at an animal shelter and agreed not to own dogs or other animals during a three-year probation period. No restitution was ordered or found to be possible. The felony conviction will be reduced to a misdemeanor should Vences-Zarco successfully complete the terms of her plea deal, according to court records.
Police Detective Sergeant Johnny Smith said Madera was a community that cares about the treatment of animals and he took all suspected cases of animal cruelty seriously.
“A dog is among the most trusting, loyal and unconditionally devoted companions to mankind. Many studies show dogs to be equivalent in intelligence to a small child. To betray, abuse and torture an innocent puppy that has submitted its life and well being to its owner is heinous and depraved. The Madera Police Department will not tolerate the abuse of animals and will actively investigate, arrest and prosecute those persons who engage in such atrocious criminal acts,” Smith said.
The puppy, now adopted by a local owner, has made a good recovery and has become a somewhat of a local celebrity. He is known on Facebook as “Frankie, The Pitty Poo.”
Donations for the animal cruelty reward fund, or to treat injured or abused animals can be sent to The Friends of Madera Animal Shelter at POB 923, Madera CA 93639.