$200,000 donation to finance Dallas County DA’s animal cruelty unit

Justice the dog died several days after he was found burned at a Pleasant Grove apartment complex. (WFAA-TV)

Staff writer Mia Castillo reports:

Animal welfare activists hope a $200,000 donation will help deliver justice to a dog named Justice and other victims of animal cruelty.

The money, donated this morning by Safer Dallas Better Dallas, will fund a new prosecutor unit that will focus on animal cruelty — the first of its kind in North Texas. Commissioner Elba Garcia accepted the money at a Commissioners Court meeting.

“This couldn’t happen without a lot of people working together, your support, and knowing that we are doing something that will create results,” Garcia said.

The two-person Animal Cruelty Unit (made up of one prosecutor and one investigator) began operating earlier this year, but its first major trial, scheduled March 18, will involve the fatal burning of a 4-month-old lab-terrier mix nicknamed Justice.

Police believe four men doused Justice with lighter fluid last April, setting the puppy on fire and watching it burn near a Pleasant Grove apartment complex. There will be a single trial for all four suspects, Adrian Michael Ayers, 21; Darius Lamar Carey, 25; Darius Ewing, 19; and Richard Anthony Valentine, 25.

Gary Griffith, president of Safer Dallas Better Dallas, said the money to fund the unit for its first year was raised in less than 60 days, demonstrating the community’s support, according to a press release about the donation.

Donors included the Meadows Foundation, Rees-Jones Foundation, Commissioner Maurine Dickey and her husband, Roland, the Alinda Hill Wikert Foundation, Skip Trimble, and Dallas Foundation, among many other smaller donors.

Prosecutor Keith Harris, who spoke on behalf of the district attorney’s office, has a warning for anyone who abuses an animal in Dallas County.

“We want people to know that if you abuse our four-legged citizens we are going to come down on you,” he said.