Case Snapshot
Case ID: 18120
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Monday, May 16, 2011

County: Washington

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Alleged
Case Images: 1 files available

Alleged: Lace L. Walker

A woman accused of starving a dog she had recently adopted from The St. George Animal Shelter appeared Thursday in Washington County Justice Court as protesters decried state animal cruelty laws.

Lace Walker, 26, of St. George, using her maiden name, pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of intentional or knowing cruelty to an animal in Judge Douglas Whitlock's court.

Walker is accused of failing to feed a mixed-breed poodle named "Cookie" she and her husband adopted on their wedding day in March. Her husband has not been charged in the case.

Jessi Call, who worked with Walker's husband, said she visited his home on May 16 after he quit his job and left town for work elsewhere. Call said she spoke with Walker and took charge of Cookie after discovering it in an emaciated condition in the yard.

"I asked, 'Why is this dog so skinny?' and she said, 'My husband has the only car so I ran out of food and I haven't fed her in days,'" Call said.

The dog was expected to die, but after a brief recovery it was taken in by a foster family, having become blind, deaf and weak with distemper. Cookie was euthanized in June, however, because of its illness.

Walker declined to comment about the claims.

She appeared Thursday without an attorney and later filled out paperwork requesting a public defender, while more than a dozen demonstrators waited outside the courthouse with picket signs.

Whitlock told Walker to do a "book and release" at the county jail so her fingerprints would be on file, and scheduled a Nov. 2 pretrial hearing to allow Walker time to acquire and meet with an attorney.

"Shame, Shame, Lace Walker!" about 18 protesters shouted as the suspect exited the courthouse, while others added "I want you to lay eyes on (Cookie)," "She's dead!" and "You'll have to answer to God!"

The protesters had earlier misidentified another woman leaving the courthouse as Walker and urged her to face her sign-bearing detractors instead of running away, but the mistake was later resolved.

Protests outside the county's courthouses are rare - County Attorney Brock Belnap said he couldn't remember another similar incident.

Mary Bemis, a co-founder of the local organization Providing Animals With Support, said she disagrees with state laws that classify most cruelty cases as misdemeanors.

"That is torture, when you're not being fed," she said.

Utah law classifies some intentional and "depraved" acts of inflicting pain on a dog or cat as "torture," a designation beyond cruelty that subjects suspects to felony penalties.

Carl Arky, the director of communications with the Humane Society of Utah, said he was aware of one person currently serving a prison sentence after being convicted of a felony animal torture charge.

"For those of us who work in it every day and see it every day, it gets frustrating ... because laws are subject to interpretation," Arky said. "Is it (the law) better than what we had before? Certainly. ... You have to preface everything by looking at how far we have come."

Lorraine Pakulis, the president of Ivins' Homeless Animal Rescue Team (HART), said Utah still needs stronger laws.

"No matter what way you phrase it ... Cookie was definitely dealt with in an inhumane manner," she said.

A Facebook page called Cookie's Hope has also been set up and shows responses and support from advocates worldwide, Bemis said.


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