Last summer, Sharon Duttle, 51, was convicted by a jury on nine felony charges of dog fighting and extreme animal and other related charges. She was also convicted of 12 misdemeanors, nearly all for animal cruelty.
On Nov. 5, noting “a positive change in her behavior,” 3rd Judicial District Chief Judge Douglas R. Driggers sentenced Duttle to five years probation, reports James Staley of the Las Cruces Sun News.
The charges against her were originally brought in 2009. A year before that the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Animal Cruelty Task Force seized 36 pit bulls, 26 cats and two mixed-breed dogs from Duttle's mobile home and property in Mesquite, N.M.
A noted forensic veterinarian found there were signs the dogs had been injected with narcotics often used by dog fighters, according to reports.
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Authorities also found that some of the dogs owned by Duttle — a former dog breeder and tattoo artist — had their teeth filed flat or sharp. They documented fighting scars all over their bodies, court records state.
Inside Duttle’s filthy, cluttered and foul smelling mobile home, authorities found dog-fighting records and equipment that can be used to train fighting dogs, court documents reveal.
In his Tuesday morning sentencing, in addition to the five-year probationary sentence, Judge Driggers ordered Duttle to pay nearly $40,000 in restitution, perform community service and receive counseling. The judge also forbade Duttle from owning or having contact with any animals — meaning she cannot visit friends who have pets or agriculture animals. She agreed to voluntarily relinquish custody of five dogs.
Judge Driggers also deferred Duttle’s punishment — meaning if she complies with all the court-ordered terms, she can get the charges dismissed, James Stately of the Las Cruces Sun-News explained.
“You have made improvement,” Driggers told her in court. “That’s why you’re getting a second chance.”
Prosecutor RoxeAnne Esquibel argued against a deferred sentence, saying that Duttle had shown no remorse nor had she taken responsibility for her actions.
After the trial, Duttle had a diagnostic evaluation, which is common in many cases. Driggers referred to that evaluation, saying Duttle “showed transition in her behavior.”
Driggers noted that Duttle had been “extremely angry at the process” during her June trial and had showed scorn for the judicial system.
Prosecutor RoxeAnne Esquibel, arguing against a deferred sentence, said Duttle had shown no remorse nor has she taken responsibility for her actions.
Duttle and one of her sons, Shawn Duttle, still have a federal civil case pending against the Animal Cruelty Task Force and several investigators, alleging their constitutional rights were violated in the 2008 seizure.
Ten people spoke on Sharon Duttle's behalf during Tuesday's proceeding. She was described as “compassionate for people and animals.”