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Woman Charged With Felony Larceny of a Dog Receives Six Months Probation, 24 Hours Community Service

Cerda (right) stands with her attorney after the District Attorney's decision.
Cerda (right) stands with her attorney after the District Attorney’s decision.

By Jesse Wood

July 11, 2014. Mariko Cerda, 34 of Elk Park and who was charged with felony larceny of a dog earlier this month, received six months unsupervised probation and 24 hours of community service at the Avery County Humane Society, according to Cerda.

This sentence came down on Friday, and Cerda added in a text message said that she doesn’t have to pay any court fees and her felony will be dropped after she serves her six months of unsupervised probation. Cerda noted that before she had a chance to make a plea she was granted a deferral in lieu of prosecution with the conditions of good behavior and community service.

“I would like to thank [District Attorney] Seth Banks and the staff of his DA office for waiving the fines and fees,” Cerda wrote.

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 Wednesday, Cerda said she was finally arrested in June after she wouldn’t reveal the location of the dog. Cerda added that the puppy 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.”

On Wednesday, Cerda pledged to fight the charges and said she had received a lot of support from those in the community.

More on this story to come.