See update to this story here about Cerda being sentenced on Friday.
By Jesse Wood
July 9, 2014. Mariko Cerda, 34, of Elk Park has a court date for felony larceny of a dog scheduled for Friday, July 11. This will be her second appearance.
Cerda was arrested by the Avery County Sheriff’s Office earlier this month after she took a puppy from her neighbor’s yard that she says was malnourished and dehydrated in April. Cerda’s neighbor was Deputy Jack McCloud who was on vacation at the time and had asked another deputy to watch the puppy.
Cerda, who was heading out of town at the time she took the puppy, dropped it off at a friend’s house. Speaking on Friday, Cerda said she was finally arrested in June after she wouldn’t reveal the location of the dog. Cerda added that the dog was returned to its owner the day after she was arrested.
“I am not a thief. I rescued a dying creature. I had to act,” Cerda told WCNC.
Meanwhile, Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye responded, “No one, no matter what good cause it is, can take the law into their own hands.”
WCNC reported that Avery County doesn’t have an animal control and the Avery County Humane Society wouldn’t have accepted the puppy because, as ACHS Executive Director Bruce Malfatone said, “The dog has to be turned in by his owner, so we would have had to turn her away.”
This incident has caused quite a stir in Avery County over the past couple months, and Cerda, who has pledged to fight the charges, said this incident has “given people the opportunity to speak their minds” and bring awareness to animal abuse and neglect.
Malfatone recently revealed that some in the county have requested that the Animal County Humane Society remain silent on the issue. Malfatone addressed this request in the society’s June newsletter.
“The recent highly publicized animal neglect case in our community has been weighing heavy on many hearts and minds. There are people who feel strongly on both sides of the issue. Regardless of where you stand on this issue there is a sense of hope that it will bring the community together, heighten awareness, create meaningful social changes, and increase the enforcement of existing laws,” Malfatone wrote. “It has been suggested that Avery County Humane Society take a neutral stand, allow it to play out quietly, and to not voice our personal opinions. If the Humane Society of the United States took that position then it wouldn’t exist. Rescues and animal advocates would have made no progress if they took a neutral position.”
Cerda has pledged to fight the charges and she said that she has received a lot of support from those in the community. Court in Newland opens at 9:30 on Friday morning and big crowd of her supporters are expected to be present.