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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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SCRAPS gets legal custody of eight pit bulls

Eight pit bulls seized last year in Spokane County’s first case of illegal dogfighting will be legally relinquished to local animal control officials, who will decide whether they can be rehabilitated at animal sanctuaries and eventually adopted.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen also ordered Peter Nelson and Alfredo Renteria to pay $16,000 to the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, or SCRAPS, which has been caring for the dogs since they were seized April 24, 2007, in Spokane Valley.

A Texas animal shelter might take some of the dogs, said SCRAPS director Nancy Hill.

“Now we have the judge’s decision, we’ll be more aggressive in moving forward,” she added.

SCRAPS has had the eight dogs temper-tested and made a video depicting their behavior. Some have shown aggression toward other animals, but not toward people. Two were puppies when they were seized.

Chewie, the only male, displays “fear aggression” to the kennel staff and was not evaluated because of his temperament, the SCRAPS report says. Hill said he might have to be euthanized.

A Spokane County jury convicted Nelson and Renteria on Feb. 22 of animal fighting and keeping an illegal kennel at 8006 E. Utah Ave., a home owned by Renteria and rented by Nelson. Renteria was acquitted of an animal cruelty charge; Nelson wasn’t charged with animal cruelty.

Animal fighting is a Class C felony that calls for up to a year in jail. Spokane County prosecutors recommended an eight-month sentence for the two men.

At a sentencing on March 27, Eitzen recommended eight months of work release and home monitoring for both men because neither had a prior felony conviction and both are employed.

Nelson has begun serving his sentence. Renteria’s petition for a stay of his sentence pending his appeal was denied, and Eitzen has granted him 30 days to coordinate with the Spokane County jail’s work release program.

Both men are appealing the jury verdict. Eitzen ordered them to post $10,000 appeal bonds by Monday.

After they were sentenced, Nelson and Renteria said they believe juror bias triggered by national publicity surrounding the Michael Vick dogfighting case tainted the Spokane jury pool and led to their conviction.

Vick is the former Atlanta Falcons football star sentenced in December to 23 months in a federal prison for operating a dogfighting operation. His case focused national attention on dogfighting.

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