Case Snapshot
Case ID: 18598
Classification: Other
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Friday, Sep 16, 2011

County: Boulder

Charges: Misdemeanor, Felony Non-CTA
Disposition: Alleged

Alleged: Joan Renee Zalk

A Boulder acupuncturist and yoga instructor has been accused of animal cruelty after several witnesses told police she was running a Chihuahua at a pace of 10 to 15 mph alongside her car as she drove down a city street last week.

Joan Renee Zalk, 29, also faces a charge of felony menacing after witnesses who confronted her about the dog told police she had threatened them.

In court at the Boulder County Jail on Monday, Zalk said she was pet-sitting and doing what the owner wanted. According to a police report, Zalk told officers the dog, named Cooper, needs to walk at least three miles a day or it goes "ballistic."

Reached by phone, Zalk said there was no animal abuse whatsoever and the dog was well cared for.

"I really look forward to clearing my name," said Zalk, who declined to answer more detailed questions because of the ongoing criminal case.

Several witnesses called police a little after 9 a.m. Friday when they saw a woman driving a Toyota Camry on Moorhead Avenue as a small dog on a leash ran alongside the driver's side of the vehicle, according to a police report.

"That poor dog was running its guts out trying to keep up," Elizabeth Whaley told officers.

Whaley told officers she drove behind the woman for some time as she first tried to understand what the woman was doing and then tried to figure out how to stop her. Whaley said the driver kept waving at her to pass, which several people did.

Whaley said she was concerned the dog would be hit by an oncoming vehicle or fall underneath the tires of the car.

According to the report, the driver, later identified as Zalk, turned on South 42nd Street and pulled over. Whaley then pulled up alongside Zalk's vehicle and yelled at her. Zalk reportedly told the woman the dog was fine and she does this all the time.

Another woman, Debra Baros, who had seen Zalk drive past with the dog and jumped in her car to follow, then pulled up and also confronted Zalk, the report said.

According to the police report, Zalk told the women, "Excuse me, I have a gun in my car. Do you want me to get it?" She then put the dog in the car and parked at a nearby home.

Baros then called police, who already had received another complaint about Zalk from a man who had snapped a cell phone photo of Zalk and Cooper.

When officers arrived and spoke to Zalk, she admitted to telling the women she had a gun, but said she only did it because she felt threatened and trapped, the report said. She said she doesn't own a gun, and there wasn't a gun in the car.

Police said they found an expired concealed carry permit belonging to Zalk that had been issued in Florida.

Zalk told officers she was trying to get a concealed weapons permit in Colorado, the arrest report stated.

The witnesses told police they never blocked Zalk and that she left without needing them to move, the report said.

Officers observed new cuts and blood on the dog's neck, as well as old scabs, the report said.

Zalk was taken to the Boulder County Jail, where she was booked on suspicion of animal cruelty and felony menacing. She was held on $200 bond over the weekend but was released Monday.

Cooper was taken to the Humane Society of Boulder Valley and was released to the owner Monday afternoon.

Boulder police spokeswoman Kim Kobel said the dog was in good condition, other than the minor injuries.

According to the report, Zalk told the officer who took her to jail, "If it is illegal to walk the dog that way, just tell me and I won't do it again."

Zalk told police the dog's owner, Erin Livers, knew that she sometimes ran the dog from her car or her bike and was OK with it.

But, according to the report, when officers called Livers, who was out of town, Livers said she did not know that Zalk ran the dog from her car.

Zalk is scheduled to appear in court for filing of charges on Wednesday.


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