Pit bull mistreatment put spotlight on animal welfare

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published January 22, 2013

Hard economic times can affect pets as well as humans, but that is not an excuse for letting animals starve, according to police and Detroit-area animal groups.

The message comes after a Sterling Heights woman pleaded guilty in January to two misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. Lisa Precourt, 19, was accused of starving one pit bull to death and dangerously underfeeding a second.

Sentencing had not taken place at press time, according to 41-A District Court.

Sterling Heights Police Lt. Luke Riley commented on the prevalence of animal neglect cases like the Precourt incident.

“They’re not that common in Sterling Heights, but you see it on the news,” he said.

According to Riley, Precourt lived in an apartment with the two dogs.

“She lost her job, was unemployed, was having financial problems and was finding it hard to feed the dogs by herself,” he said. “Which is no excuse, because the dogs didn’t get in this condition overnight.”

Upon getting a helpful tip, an animal-welfare group, called Detroit Bully Corps, took custody of the dogs in November. While the pit bull rescue group was able to save one of the dogs, it was too late for the other.

Between the two misdemeanors, Precourt could face a sentence of up to one year in county jail for the one dog’s death and a sentence of up to 93 days for mistreating the other, Riley said.

An attorney for Precourt could not be reached.

Detroit Bully Corps could not be reached for comment by press time, but in a December press release, group co-founder Bill Bellottie called for tougher regulations.

“According to Michigan law, animals are property, but we feel that animals are more than that,” he said. “They are living, breathing companions that fulfill our lives and bring about a consciousness that strengthens our existence.”

Animal Care Network manager Pam Porteous was glad that the legal system took action to prosecute Precourt.

“We see a lot of animals that are treated like that and starved to death in Pontiac and Inkster,” she said. “We applaud Sterling Heights and that county for following through on that. It sends a message to people that you just can’t do this. It’s a crime, and it’s animal cruelty.”

Porteous said that people who are unable to care for pets should surrender them to a local shelter or get food assistance from a local outreach center. She said most animal-welfare organizations are doing programs like that, just as Animal Care Network does for Pontiac and Inkster.

“It’s just like with humans,” Porteous said. “Animal groups have the same types of programs. A lot of what we do is we help people out with food who can’t afford it. In every county and at almost every shelter, there are groups that help just like we do.”

Learn more about the Ann Arbor-based Detroit Bully Corps at www.dbcdogs.org.