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Chihuahua Cruelty Case to Go to Trial

September 06, 2003|Michael Krikorian | Times Staff Writer

A 72-year-old woman who allegedly kept more than 230 Chihuahuas at her Acton home was ordered Friday to stand trial on charges that include animal cruelty and battery on an animal control officer.

Emma Regina Harter could face up to three years in prison if convicted. But Deputy Dist. Atty. Steven Heller said he would not recommend incarceration.

"Based on her age, the nature of the case and her lack of a criminal record, we would be looking to put her on probation, order her not to possess any animals, get her counseling and have her pay restitution for the dogs' impound fees," Heller said. The fees could reach $500,000, he said.

The dogs were seized from Harter's property in November and placed in the custody of the Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control Department. Many were inbred and had severe behavioral problems. More than 50 have since died, officials said.

"These dogs were very aggressive, and some of the larger dogs killed several of the other dogs," Heller said.

In August, a judge ordered that 177 of the dogs be turned over to Burbank-based Chihuahua Rescue for training to make them adoptable, if possible. The Chihuahuas have since been dispersed to six rescue organizations and a boarding house for dogs, said Kimi Peck, executive director of Chihuahua Rescue.

About 40 of the animals have been taken in by private homes, Peck said, but many of the others are still too wild for adoption.

Superior Court Judge Lisa Chung found sufficient evidence to require Harter to stand trial after two days of hearings that included testimony from an animal control official and a county veterinarian, Heller said.

Harter's arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 18 in Los Angeles County Superior Court in Lancaster on two felony and five misdemeanor counts, Heller said.

Peck said she was surprised and pleased about the charges.

"I'm for whatever it takes to stop her and other people like her from creating these horrible situations," she said.

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