Sunday, 14 April 2024

Lucerne man sentenced for animal cruelty case

LAKE COUNTY – A Lucerne man has been sentenced for an animal cruelty case involving an injured dog first reported last year.

Paul Jon Westergren pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor violation of Penal Code section 597(b), subjecting an animal to needless suffering or cruelty, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff. Deputy District Attorney Dan Moffatt prosecuted the case.

Dixie the pit bull was rescued from Westergren's home last summer, as Lake County News first reported last year.

Just 6 months old at the time, Dixie had been hit by a semi truck two days earlier and been left to cry in pain in Westergren's yard for two days while she suffered from a crushed pelvis and broken leg. She also had internal nerve damage and injuries to her bowel and urinary tracts.

Animal Care and Control received a call about the dog on June 27, 2008, and Officer Eric Wood went to Westergren's home, found Dixie and saw that Westergren had not sought medical care for her, as is required by law. The dog was injured so badly she hadn't been able to urinate in two days.

Dixie was taken to Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic in Lakeport where she underwent several surgeries to repair her shattered hip and repair the nerve damage.

Eventually, her right back leg had to be amputated because the leg did not heal right and was dragging the ground, causing sores on her foot and creating the possibility of infection.

Dixie has since gone to a new home out of county, where she lives with a loving new owner and several canine friends.

However, Animal Care and Control Deputy Director Bill Davidson said she has had continued health problems because of infections, and her situation is “touch and go.”

Hinchcliff said Westergren was prosecuted for not getting the dog prompt medical attention for two days and allowing her to suffer.

Judge Richard Martin sentenced Westergren to three years probation, 80 hours work service, search condition for residence, and a term and condition is he possess no pets for three years, Hinchcliff said.

In addition, Hinchcliff said Westergren will be ordered to pay restitution for vet bills for the animal and fined $100.

Hinchcliff said he thinks the sentence is a fairly typical one, if there is such a thing in animal cruelty cases.

He said if Westergren had caused the broken hip through abuse, he likely would have been charged with a felony rather than a misdemeanor, leading to a more severe sentence.

Westergren is looking at hefty restitution for Dixie's vet bills. Davidson told Lake County News last week that Dixie's care amounted to about $7,000, covering the surgeries and a rare internal bacterial infection she contracted.

Davidson said Westergren's overall sentence differed slightly from that of a woman convicted of neglect in the case of Hero, a German shepherd impounded in the summer of 2006 after he was found to be severely emaciated, with bleeding feet filled with foxtails.

Martin sentenced Donna Mae Heath to 180 days in the county jail for animal neglect and failure to provide medical care. She also was required to pay nearly $4,000 in restitution for the dog's vet bills, couldn't own an animal for three years and received three years formal probation.

The case involving “Luke,” a 10-year-old German shepherd rescued from a home in July 2008, also went to the District Attorney's Office for prosecution, said Davidson, but there has been no resolution in that case yet.

Luke, who was found unable to stand, with no food or water in the hot sun, had hair matted with foxtails and stickers and open wounds filled with maggots. He eventually had to be put down because he couldn't be rehabilitated, as Lake County News has reported.

Another case involving a dog named “Nellie,” found severely emaciated at her Lower Lake home last August, has gone to the District Attorney's Office. Davidson said she was adopted out to a new home but was put down recently due to continuing health problems.

Two other dog abuse cases from last year, those of Teiya, a pit bull whose owner beat her until her leg was broken, and a puppy named Sugar, whose juvenile owner picked her up and threw her, breaking her front elbow, didn't end up being prosecuted, Davidson said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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