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Woman Acquitted of Animal Cruelty for shooting dog that had repeatedly attacked her dog

Originally ran here as:
"Woman Acquitted of Animal Cruelty"
by Lorrie Delk, Staff Writer
The Ledger
May 01, 2002

Woman Acquitted of Animal Cruelty
A Nichols woman shot a dog that had repeatedly attacked her dog.

BARTOW, FLORIDA -- Judy Desue told a jury she got fed up with a neighbor's dog repeatedly entering her yard and attacking her dog, and that's why she shot it.

On Tuesday, the jury found her not guilty of animal cruelty.

"I feel good about it," Desue said of the verdict. "Whether I was guilty or not, I wanted everyone to know there are two sides to every story."

Desue said she was concerned about the case because she felt most people feel strongly about animal cruelty and would think she was guilty without hearing her side.

Her public defender, Phil Averbuck, also was pleased with the verdict.

Desue, who turned 33 Tuesday, shot "T," a pit bull mix owned by 16-year-old Andrew "Junior" Young, after it and another mixed-breed dog attacked her dog, Snowball, she told the jury. She shot the dog with a .22-caliber rifle.

Desue testified that she had repeatedly told Young to keep his dog on a leash because the dog frequently attacked her dog.

In August, T and two other dogs attacked Snowball and severely injured its hind leg, Desue said as she cried. One dog had Snowball by the throat, another bit the dog's stomach, and T tore the flesh on Snowball's hind leg. A scar from the attack remains, she said.

Desue said she did nothing at that time because she was scared. The next day, she told Young, "If you don't keep your dog on a leash, I'm going to have to do something."

The attacks continued about "every other night," Desue said.

On Dec. 13, Desue heard dogs fighting outside her home in Nichols -- a small community west of Mulberry -- and went outside to find T "just skinning my dog like a catfish," she said.

T had Snowball by the same hind leg the dog had injured before and was tearing its flesh.

Desue saw Young and his friend laughing as their dogs attacked, she told the jury. Once they saw her, they began trying to regain control of their dogs.

With the rifle in her hand, Desue told Young and his friend to move out of the way so she could shoot the dog. She said that although she originally aimed the rifle at the friend's dog, she decided against shooting it because she had not given him repeated warnings to keep his dog out of her yard, as she had with Young.

When Young yelled a second time for the boys to move, they obeyed, and she fired one shot at T. She hit the dog in the stomach, and it ran away.

Young and his mother later took the dog to a veterinarian. They couldn't afford to treat the dog and had it put to sleep.

Assistant State Attorney Matt Kaylor told the jurors during his closing argument not to "base your decision on if you would have done the same thing in that situation."

Kaylor argued that Desue "had no right to take the law into her own hands."

"I think citizens do have a right to defend their property against an animal on their own property," Averbuck said. "Whether a dog on its own or through the encouragement of another (injures your pet), you have a right to use force on that animal."

Lorrie Delk can be reached at 863-533-9079.


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 QUOTES TO REMEMBER
I have seen an American general and his officers, without pay, and almost without clothes, living on roots and drinking water; and all for LIBERTY! What chance have we against such men! -- young British officer to Colonel Watson describing the American militia rebels in Georgetown, SC [Source: 'Marion, The Life of Gen. Francis Marion' by M. L. Weems, Ch.18]

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