In Puppy Death Case, Defense Seeks Diversion Program, No Jail | New

According to court documents.

The diversion program, which is typically used for those suspected of minor offenses and certain misdemeanors, would allow the three defendants, shelter operations manager Patricia Santana Valencia, former behavior manager Margaret Evans and former manager of Human Resources Ingrid Hartmann to carry out community service. or engage in other court-ordered activities. Once they have met the conditions of the diversion program, their records will be deleted.

But the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office opposes the diversion proposal “due to the devastating nature of the crime as well as their profession as (being) animal caretakers,” prosecutors wrote in a brief. ‘opposition.

Valencia, Evans and Hartmann are each charged with a misdemeanor charge of failing to provide proper care and attention to an animal and inhumane transportation of an animal. They are then due to appear in court on August 9. The three transported the 12-week-old pups and 21 other animals from the Central Valley in a van in 90-degree heat in August 2021. Three autopsy reports, while inconclusive, found the puppies likely died of heatstroke or asphyxiation.

Prosecutors allege employees neglected to give the puppies and other dogs enough water and packed too many dogs into the van, which allegedly lacked adequate air conditioning in the back section where the animals were locked in cages.

The defendants say they followed protocol and say they checked on the puppies during a stop in Los Banos, a town in Merced County, before heading to the Palo Alto facility. The puppies were healthy at the time, they said.

State law gives judges the discretion to grant pre-trial diversion if defendants meet “fitness” standards. The law partly characterizes suitable defendants as those who are “minimally involved in the crime and maximally motivated to reform”.

If they are granted diversion and have met all the conditions of the court order, the charges will be dismissed and the women will not need to report that they have already been arrested. The information will, however, remain in the California Department of Justice’s system, which may be released if a peace officer requests the information. Women should also disclose their arrest if they seek employment as a police officer, in accordance with the law.

Lawyers for the three women pointed to clean criminal records and, for Valencia and Evans, years of unblemished work with animals. Valencia has 20 years of experience and has rescued thousands of animals without similar incidents, according to the court’s request for the diversion program.

“It is true that Pets in Need had limited guidelines for transporting animals prior to the incident. New guidelines are now being completed with the assistance of a licensed veterinarian and other animal experts,” the attorneys wrote. of the defense. Employees followed the limited guidelines for pets in distress.

The dogs were given a limited amount of water to prevent the young animals from getting motion sickness, the lawyers said. Some of the dogs had already vomited before being transported by Pets in Need when they were driven in an air-conditioned vehicle by a volunteer from a Central Valley shelter to meet Pets in Need staff. The dogs were likely already sick when picked up, but the volunteer had not provided any additional information about the animals that would have led to an inspection by a veterinarian before Pets in Need staff took them away, the attorneys said.

But prosecutors noted video evidence showed the puppies were happy playing outside in a shaded area at volunteer Chowchilla’s home. Evans and Valencia’s long work experience makes the puppy deaths all the more egregious and therefore does not meet the standards of the diversion program, prosecutors said.

“The defendants’ association with Pets in Need should have caused them to be even more vigilant regarding the welfare of the seven puppies. Instead, this conduct was even worse than the law condones for people knowledgeable people who understand animal care. It’s functionally the same as leaving a dog alone in a hot car,” prosecutors wrote.

Valid criteria for not offering diversion include whether there has been violent behavior that poses a serious danger to society. While this test generally relates to physical abuse, “inhumane transportation of animals is intrinsically linked to bodily harm. Their conduct poses a serious risk to the safety of the animals,” prosecutors wrote in their opposition brief. .

Hartmann, who was recently hired to be the human resources manager, claimed in her petition for the judicial diversion program that she was only there as a “coach,” which Pets in Need requires of all. new hires.

Prosecutors wrote that Hartmann’s characterization of her role went beyond mere overlap.

“She chose to participate, moving the puppies from spaced out crates to the harsh conditions of the van. She knew there was no clean water,” prosecutors wrote.

The defendants have not admitted any responsibility for the deaths of the puppies. Instead, they chose to blame the Central Valley shelter volunteer and Pets in Need’s inadequacy of protocols — reasons they are failing to meet diversion standards, prosecutors said.

While strongly opposing diversion for the defendants, prosecutors also asked the judge to consider an alternative request. If the court is inclined to grant diversion, the prosecution has asked for sentences of one year with no further violations of the law, 160 hours of service through the alternative sentencing program and documents showing that Pets in Need has changed. its practices and procedures to the extent that if the defendants continue to work as animal caretakers, the court can rest assured that this type of tragedy will be avoided in the future.

Since the incident, Evans has left Pets in Need and has been working two jobs, including managing a mattress store in Utah. She was unable to find employment in her field, the lawyers said. Hartmann also left Pets in Need. Valencia is still employed at the animal shelter as head of shelter operations, according to court documents and the nonprofit.

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