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Justice for Dewey..Animal-rights activists express outrage, disgust

July 8th, 2004, 06:15 PM
Animal-rights activists express outrage, disgust

By Nancy Cicco

PORTSMOUTH - They said they came to fight for "justice for Dewey."
As Shannon C. Walters, of Newmarket, faced an animal-cruelty charge in Portsmouth District Court on Tuesday, a handful of animal-rights activists turned out to hear the details of the case, while still others picketed outside the courthouse.

Walters, 34, is charged with a Class B felony for allegedly drowning "Dewey," a miniature dachshund, in a water-filled bathtub inside the Portsmouth home of her friend, Erin M. Wylie.

Prosecutors allege Walters and Wylie took the dog during a staged burglary at the Eliot, Maine, home of Wylie’s former boyfriend, Patrick Collins, because she allegedly did not like the pet. Both women have entered pleas of not guilty in the case.

Walters’ defense lawyer, Phil Desfosses of Portsmouth, argued on Tuesday that the dog’s death was not torture as portrayed by the prosecution but rather a "mercy killing," he said.

That rationale didn’t sit well with locals inside the courtroom.

"It’s even more disgusting than we thought," said Julie Fernee, vice president of Another Chance Animal Rescue, of North Berwick, Maine.

Group members turned out for Walters’ probable-cause court hearing, said organization member Debby Spaulding, because "everybody felt passionately about Dewey." The nonprofit no-kill animal-rescue organization finds foster and permanent homes for unwanted pets, she explained.

Spaulding said she broke down in tears after learning Wylie allegedly had put a sock over Dewey’s head while taking the dog from Collins’ home.

"People nowadays feel a pet is your family, and to have something like that happen to your family, it hits you hard," she added.

Holding a sign that read, "Justice for Dewey," Spaulding was picketing outside the courthouse with fellow rescue-league members Betty Danner and Isa Thomas, also of North Berwick.

Members also handed out "Justice for Dewey" bumper stickers listing the address of the animal-rescue group’s Web site, which features a link to an online petition that asks prosecutors to seek the maximum prison sentence for both Walters and Wylie. Initiated by Jean Slepian, of Stoddard, the petition, to date, bears 3,761 signatures and comments from people from around the country.

Art Miller, an artist from York Beach, Maine, who also attended Walters’ court hearing, said a possible prison term of 3½ to 7 years would be "a slap on the wrist" if Walters is convicted.

"They’ve proven that every serial killer started with animals and worked their way up," he said.

After the hearing, Miller said he was irked by Desfosses’ defense argument.

"The one thing that probably bothered me the most about this morning’s proceedings was that Desfosses actually made the argument that drowning a living creature is not cruelty. Unbelievable," said Miller.

"We want to try to keep public attention on this so it doesn’t get swept under the rug. That was an awful thing that little dog went through," Spaulding said.

July 8th, 2004, 06:20 PM
Judge not swayed that dog's death was 'mercy killing'
Woman will face animal cruelty charges

The Associated Press

July 08. 2004 8:04AM

PORTSMOUTH - The case of a woman charged with drowning a dog in a bathtub is headed to a grand jury after her lawyer failed to convince a judge that the incident was a "mercy killing."

Shannon Walters of Newmarket is charged with animal cruelty in the death of Dewey, a miniature dachshund owned by her friend's former boyfriend. The friend, Erin Wylie of Portsmouth, is charged with being an accomplice.

At a hearing in Portsmouth District Court on Tuesday, Walters' lawyer argued that the charge should be reduced to a misdemeanor. If Walters held the dog under water, it was to end the animal's suffering, Phil Desfosses said.

Portsmouth Officer Darrin Sargent testified that Walters said the dog was in "poor condition" before the drowning. The women are accused of putting a wool sock over its head and carrying it to Wylie's apartment in a garment bag.

Sargent said Walters had described the dog as being "listless" and bleeding from the nose when it was removed from the bag.

The dog, along with some electronic equipment, had been taken from the Eliot, Maine, apartment of Wylie's ex-boyfriend in what was staged as a burglary, Sargent said. According to the women's confessions, Sargent said Wylie had been bothered by the dog's housebreaking problems and told Walters that it was a nuisance to her relationship with Patrick Collins.

Sargent said Walters expressed reservations about drowning the dog but Wylie told her "We've come this far, just get rid of the dog."

Walters told the police that it didn't take long for the dog to die because it was already near death. That means the prosecution's claim that the drowning amounted to torture is "preposterous," Desfosses said.

Assistant County Attorney Mark Osborne disagreed.

"To call putting a wool sock over its head, stuffing it in a bag, and then holding it under water, forcing its lungs to fill up with water until it is forced to die not torture is to say the sky is not blue," Osborne said.