Cumberland County’s first animal cruelty jury trial ends in conviction

By Nancy McCleary, Staff writer, Fayetteville Observer

A Spring Lake woman was found guilty Monday in Cumberland County Superior Court of abandoning and starving her dog.  It was the first time an animal cruelty case was heard by a jury, said Dr. John Lauby, director of Cumberland County Animal Control.

Jessica Nichole Canada, 28, of the 100 block of South Sixth Street, was charged in May with animal cruelty, which is a misdemeanor, according to an Animal Control release.

She was convicted in August in District Court, but appealed that decision, opting for a jury trial in Superior Court, the release said.

Jurors deliberated 10 minutes before returning the verdict, Lauby said.

Canada’s dog, Gino, a black Labrador retriever/German shepherd mix, was discovered in her back yard after Animal Control received a report of an abandoned dog, Lauby said.

The dog weighed 26 pounds when it should have weighed 50 pounds, Lauby said.

Judge Jim Ammons sentenced Canada to 45 days in jail, but suspended the sentence and put her on unsupervised probation for five years, the release said.

Canada was ordered to perform 48 hours of community service, pay $1,182 in fees and court costs and is not allowed to own pets.

The conviction sends a strong message to the community, Lauby said.

“We are doing what we can in Cumberland County to stop animal cruelty,” he said.

Lauby asked that residents contact Animal Control if they suspect an animal is being neglected, abused or mistreated.

“If we hear about a cruelty issue, we are going to investigate and if it leads to charges, we will get these offenders into court and convicted when guilty,” Lauby said.

Three Animal Control officers have been certified by the University of Missouri’s National Animal Cruelty Investigations School, the release said, and two more are now completing the process.