September 18, 2000

Mr. Neil Morris
Harnett County District Attorney
Via Fax (910) 814-0347

Re: Prosecute the Moats to the Full Extent of the Law
Neglect of Duke, Duchess & Her Puppies*

Dear Sir or Madam:

It was with great shock and horror that I learned via Internet news sources about the case of the Moats and their dogs Duchess and Duke (and several dead puppies). News articles online along with a dramatic testimonial by neighbors of the Moat family convince me beyond a reasonable doubt that the case of Duchess, Duke and her puppies is neglect and animal cruelty.

While the family may not have intended it, they have abused their dogs by denial of proper food, water, shelter and proper medical care. These poor creatures, often dubbed man’s best friend, have suffered intolerable pain and suffering and certainly constitute criminal cruelty under the North Carolina Statutes, Chapter 14. Criminal Law, Subchapter XI. General Police Regulations, Article 47. Cruelty To Animals (s 14-360, 14-361 and 14-361.1).

That Animal Control Officer Tino Medina, at the urging of a member of the Sheriff’s office, through an error in judgment did not immediately confiscate the animals and cite the Moats seems appalling to me. While I offer Officer Medina the benefit of the doubt, I find it difficult to believe that at least now in hindsight he cannot see he was remiss in his duty. I suggest the best thing for him and his agency would be to admit the error in judgment, rectify the situation by citing and pursuing criminal prosecution of Mr. and Mrs. Moats for violation of the above referenced statute, terminating any and all ownership rights of the animals in question, and setting in place a system to prevent such dire situations in the future.

Finally, I would encourage you to consider the circumstances under which the Moats neighbors acted. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines rescue as “to free from danger, harm or confinement.” These animals were clearly in danger in their existing circumstances. Allowing an animal to suffer when it can be prevented or ended is not merely criminal but morally reprehensible. I believe this is the moral dilemma the rescuers faced and their conviction to act, even at the risk of being prosecuted for theft, demonstrates their dedication to right rather than technical correctness. While I do not ordinarily support the breaking of any laws, when a life is at stake, I feel certain ethical necessities supercede the written law. A common example is saving a child from a burning house that is locked. Saving the child might be considered breaking and entering, however, there is a higher priority which must take precedent over the technicality of the law. In my eyes, the rescuers did just that by saving this dog and trying to save her puppies.

Further, it seems apparent that the Moats had abandoned the animals—even if it was in their own backyard versus along side a highway somewhere. Their lack of care, medical treatment or even compassion demonstrated that abandonment of obligation and therefore should constitute an abandonment of rights to ownership.

I ask you hear the outcries of the community. You have an opportunity to send a message that animals are not toys, and they are not disposable. If a person or family take on the responsibility of a pet, they should be prepared for a lifetime commitment and be required to follow the laws prohibiting the neglect and abuse of said animals.

I thank you for your time and attention in this matter.


Leigh-Anne Dennison
& Phil Dennison

cc: Dawn Henderson via E-mail

*Be sure to read the updates on this case.