- California, USA -
34-year-old KATIE RHIANNON SMITH decided to forgo a jury trial and enter a no contest plea to felony animal abuse.
The abuse refers to the shooting of her dog, a German Shepherd now widely known as “Thunder the Wonder Dog: The Cone Dog from the Woods.”
In December 2019, the 7-year-old furbaby was found wandering in Jackson State Demonstration Forest several days after he had been shot.
His front left leg was injured, he had been abused, he was wearing a cone that prevented him from eating or drinking, and he had large, bloodied gashes on his head and left side.
The Press Democrat reported back then that on December 18, 2019, Tina Fabula, a senior wildlife biologist with Cal Fire, was out in the field when she saw Thunder making his way down a forest road.
Ms. Fabula then saw Ms. Davina Liberty who was out riding her horse and told her about the dog she had just seen.
Ms. Liberty approached Thunder and then called her husband asking him to bring his truck and pick them up.
In the meantime, a friend, Sadie, called the Mendocino Coast Humane Society in Fort Bragg so a vet would be ready to examine Thunder.
A veterinarian determined that the furbaby was suffering from gunshot wounds, dehydration and malnutrition.
While Thunder’s wounds were being treated, the veterinarian discovered a bullet lodged in his leg.
It appeared that Thunder had been shot two or three times.
Thunder was then transferred to a veterinary hospital in Santa Rosa for several days to receive 24-hour care.
Later, the furbaby was fostered by Ms. Davina Liberty in Fort Bragger (pictured with Thunder below).
Thunder had a microchip embedded under his skin, but the address linked to it was a Nevada one last registered in 2015 and the phone number was disconnected.
Ms. Liberty posted Thunder’s story and pictures on social media in the hope someone might recognize him.
Meanwhile, Mendocino County Sheriff’s deputies looked for local information about the owners named in the microchip registration and found a cell number for them.
When the guardians (a husband and a wife) showed up to surrender the dog to the nonprofit, they claimed they had been out with the dog, but he had run away, and they had not been able to find him.
That version was however retracted and the wife (SMITH), admitted shooting the dog with a handgun in an effort to put him down.
On Tuesday, October 13, Mike Geniella, spokesman for District Attorney Dave Eyster said: “With this plea, Smith admitted that she maliciously and intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured or wounded an animal.”
Advocate-News reports: “Despite what Eyster’s office said in a press release, a “no contest” plea to a felony is not the same as a guilty plea — it means Smith will not fight the charges but is not admitting guilt.”
As for Thunder, Ms. Liberty said he is: “healthy, he’s happy, he’s fully recovered,” and living with a new family that loves him very very much.”
She then added: “I am just super grateful. That dog deserves it.”
KATIE RHIANNON SMITH is scheduled to be sentenced on December 2, at 9:00 a.m. in the Fort Bragg court on 700 S. Franklin Street.
She faces only up to 3 years in Mendocino County Jail, and a fine of up to $20,000.
If you are interested in the outcome of the case, you are welcome to attend the sentencing hearing but PLEASE note that facial coverings and social distancing are required.
Also, if you would like to weigh in on this matter, make respectful comment, and/or urge a particular outcome, you may send a letter no later than November 18, 2020 to:
Mendocino County Adult Probation Department
Re: Thunder the Wonder Dog
700 S. Franklin, Rm. 107
Fort Bragg, CA 95437.
The law enforcement agencies that investigated this crime were the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, Mendocino County Animal Control, and the District Attorney’s own investigators.
Care and assistance for Thunder was provided by the Mendocino Coast Humane Society and their medical staff.
Pictures shared from The Press Democrat