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Abused dogs find new homes after owner sentenced on felony animal cruelty charge

Their owner never admitted to holding the pellet gun.

But it’s clear, authorities said, that Dozer the boxer and Luna the pit bull were shot inside their own home on more than one occasion, leaving both dogs with multiple untreated fractures and nearly 70 pellets embedded in their bodies.

More than a year later, the physical damage lingers. But the sweet spirits of Luna and Dozer, remarkably, have remained undimmed by the abuse that nearly killed them.



“Even in the beginning, they were absolute sweethearts,” said foster mom Tricia Dowden. “It amazes me how forgiving they are.”

Former owner Shannon Dolan was sentenced earlier this month in Nevada County Superior Court after pleading no contest to animal cruelty. Dolan agreed to surrender Luna and Dozer and is barred from pet ownership for a decade.



“I am happy with the outcome of this case, especially knowing that the defendant will be prevented from owning, living with, or caring for any animals for the next 10 years,” Deputy District Attorney Cambria Lisonbee said in an email. “As a dog lover, I certainly couldn’t let a case like this slip through the cracks…. It is my hope that (Dozer and Luna) get to live the rest of their lives in peace.”

A grim discovery

On Nov. 13, 2019, animal control officers received a report of an injured dog on the side of Bald Hill Road near Lime Kiln Road, said Nevada County sheriff’s spokesman Andrew Trygg. While en route to the area, officers received information that the dog had been transported to a local vet for treatment.

Tricia Dowden works at Mother Lode Veterinary Hospital, and was there the day Dozer was brought in, she said.

“Once we took X-rays, the pellets lit up the entire screen,” she said. “He was laying there, as sad as could be.”

According to Dolan’s pre-sentence report, Dozer had scabs and scars on his head and mouth, with blood on his head and front paws. The X-rays revealed about approximately 56 pellet gun projectiles, of at least two different sizes, throughout his body. Dozer also had a severely broken jaw and several cracked teeth, the report stated, adding the injuries appeared to be at least two to four weeks old.

Dozer was determined to belong to Dolan, and Animal Control Officer Stefanie Geckler went to Dolan’s residence on Nov. 20, 2019, for an interview, the report stated.

There, Geckler found another dog, Luna, with a scar on her head, a “cauliflowered” ear and a severe limp. During the investigation, it was learned that Dolan had taken Luna to the vet several weeks earlier with a severely fractured femur, an old rib fracture and several fractured teeth. Luna appeared to have been shot by someone, as there was a projectile embedded in the dog’s tibia, the pre-sentence report stated.

According to the report, the veterinarian told Dolan that doing nothing for Luna “is not an option.” But after seeing Luna and after consulting with the vet, Geckler determined the dog had not received the necessary medical care, the report said.

“It should be noted that Dozer and Luna had a combined 67 pellet-type projectiles embedded in their bodies, with many of the entry sites having already healed, indicating the person responsible for the cruelty had access to both dogs over an extended period of time,” the report continued.

A search warrant was served at Dolan’s residence the next day and authorities found numerous pellets, BBs, partially loaded pellet rounds, projectiles, pellet holes in numerous walls and several air rifle type weapons, the report stated. Luna was taken into protective custody and a felony criminal complaint was filed on Dec. 12, 2019.

Dolan never admitted to having shot the dogs, Lisonbee said, adding, “However, the evidence was pretty overwhelming.”

On Dec. 11, Dolan was sentenced on one county of felony animal cruelty after taking a plea agreement with a stipulation of two years’ formal probation and 20 days in jail to be served on work release, as well as six hours of individual therapy. Dolan also will be liable for restitution for the dogs’ care.

New lives, new families

Both Luna and Dozer already have been formally adopted, said Sammies’ Friends Shelter Director Lizette Taylor.

Dozer ended up staying with Tricia Dowden and her husband, Steve. The couple often foster abused animals and took both dogs in for several months before Luna was moved to another foster home.

Dozer’s jaw, which had been broken and left untreated for a month, had to be reconstructed, Tricia said. A lot of dead bone was removed before the jaw was pinned and plated, she said, adding, “Whenever he eats or drinks, he loses most of it” back on the ground.

Even so, the Dowdens added, the boxer has gained at least 30 pounds.

“He’s a different dog … He looks great,” Tricia said.

“When he first got here, every once in a while he would cower and put his chest down,” Steve said. “It took a while for him to get over that.”

Dozer, both agree, is a people-pleaser.

“He just does whatever you ask of him,” Steve said. “He’s a very well-balanced dog, considering.”

“He’s come a long way,” Tricia agreed.

The decision to make Dozer a permanent member of the family was an easy one, the couple said.

“He’s just a very special dog, not just because of what happened to him, but because of who is,” Tricia said. “He’s a funny, sweet boy.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

Dozer’s jaw was fractured and left untreated, with bone loss that needed reconstruction.
Submitted by Steve Dowden
An X-ray shows the pellets found embedded in the head of Dozer, a boxer found on the side of the road.
Submitted by Steve Dowden
Dozer relaxes in the sun at his new home.
Submitted by Steve Dowden

 


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