Update 2/7/11 – No Justice for Phoenix

There is good news in that there have been two arrests in the horrific pitbull burning in Baltimore.  Two juveniles were arrested in this heinous and cruel crime that cost the life of an innocent and defenseless dog that was named Phoenix by those who valiantly fought to save her life.

On May 27 around noon in the 1600 block of Presbury St. in East Baltimore, a dog engulfed in flames was spotted by police officer Syreeta Teel. Risking her own life, she smothered the flames and Phoenix was taken for emergency care and treatment. Her body was covered in burns almost 100% and sadly, although initially optimistic, vets had to euthanize the dog last weekend after she took a turn for the worse.

In an act of kindness, hospital staff took Phoenix outside the animal hospital to give her a last bit of happiness in the sunshine and there she was humanely euthanized surrounded by those who grew to care for her so quickly.

This crime galvanized the country and letters and email flooded into police with tips and money for a reward which grew up to $26,000.

Information on the suspects is that they are twin 17-year-old brothers, Travis and Jermain Johnson. Their parents, Charles Johnson and Denise Griffin, maintain the boys’ innocence saying they were only turned in for the reward.  They were charged as juveniles with animal abuse and cruelty.

“I know they didn’t do it. I keep hearing different things around the neighborhood about the dog ran up to there. The dog — nobody said the dog was right there. So, I feel as though I know my boys didn’t do it. It’s a reward out and then wasn’t nobody picked up around there until they said something about a reward,” Griffin said.

“The case is still very much open and under investigation, and we are working with prosecutors to go over evidence and bring this case forward,” said Anthony Guglielmi, chief spokesman for the Police Department.

Shortly after the crime, fliers were plasters all over the trash and weed strewn neighborhood on boarded up windows and lampposts.

“You or your neighbors may know who is responsible for torturing this poor dog,” and “Call before someone else does. Do the right thing!” read a couple of the fliers.

Animal advocates and those who were touched by Phoenix’s story were relieved and hopeful when the news of the arrests was released.

“We were all very excited to hear that there was an arrest made, and we’re just hoping there’s justice for Phoenix,” Debra Rahl, programs director for Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter said. “We’re still very sad that she did not make it, but she didn’t die in vain. It raised awareness of what happens with animals here in the city and across the country.”

Rahl says, “Whoever could do this, you have to wonder what they’ll be willing or able to do to a person. It’s so sad you could take a defenseless animal and douse it in gasoline and set it on fire.”

“We’re thrilled to hear [of the arrests],” said Martin Mersereau, director of the cruelty casework division of the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals. “People who abuse animals rarely do it once and almost never stop there.”

“The biggest mistake here is that people call this a ‘boys being boys’ thing,” Mersereau said. “I do hope they’re charged with felonies for malicious torture.”

Sadly, it comes as no surprise to me that teenagers were arrested for this horrific crime.  My only hope is that these are the right people and they are tried as adults and if convicted they are sentenced with all the seriousness that an incredibly cruel crime like this merits.  I am so sick of slap on the wrist sentences for animal abusers and anyone who could do this deserves to behind bars!  My mind and heart scream out to say more but I just hope this poor girl gets the justice she deserves!

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Parents Deny Sons Involvement in Pitbull Burning

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