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Sheriff Paul Penzone explains why animal abuse case is taking so long


PHOENIX — After questions were raised as to why an animal abuse case was taking so long, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone explained the depth of the investigation.

Penzone needed to make sure the department had the answers to particular questions to ensure a tight-locked conviction and track each individual animals history.

In mid-September 2018, MCSO deputies were dispatched to the home of Domenic Asprella. A witness informed detectives of a dog’s poor conditions.

While investigators couldn’t get access to Asprella’s home at the time, Animal Crimes did receive a warrant to seize 52 dogs from Shelter Paws, a dog shelter facility ran by Asprella in Mesa, on October 4, 2018.

“I recognize there was a lot of concern, a lot of frustration and a lot of passion when this began by those who are personally or emotionally invested,” the sheriff said. “We want to see bad people come to justice expeditiously, as do I and every other member in this organization.

“We also have to make sure it’s not about putting handcuffs on in that moment, it is about ensuring our process leads to a just outcome and that we are not able to just arrest and prosecute but we’re able to convict. That means acquiring all of the necessary evidence and ensuring that we work in part with the prosecutors so that they have no unanswered questions.”

Today, 47 dogs are still being cared for in a MCSO Animal Safe Haven facility. Two of the dogs have died since their rescue and three were so aggressive in nature they could not be re-socialized and had to be euthanized. However, two owners provided proof of ownership and were able to take their dogs home.

Esprella’s treatment of these animals was so poor they were found laying in their own bodily waste and starved to the point of being in pain.

One of the first steps was to study Asprella’s finances to see if he was making any profit off the animals in his possessions, some of which were obtained from Maricopa County Animal Care and Control.

From January to February 2019 subpoenas from grand jury indictment went out to PayPal, J.P. Morgan Chase and GoFundMe.

It was discovered that donations exceeding $23,300 from Facebook and PayPal were placed into Asprella’s J.P. Morgan Chase Bank account.

Despite money in his account and an abundance of food in the facility, as noted by investigators, the dogs were still malnourished and were not given adequate medical attention.

This disheartening treatment comes after Esprella was supposedly saving the animals from being euthanized at other facilities.

After hundreds of hours of investigating, Esprella was served on July 15 and faces 117 counts including fraudulent schemes, cruelty to animals, intentional mistreatment and failure to provide medical treatment.

Penzone said MCSO is responsible for the dogs until they are able to adjudicate the case and adopt the animals out to more caring families.

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