Saticoy gang member pleads guilty to dog’s ear cropping

February 09, 2011
Santa Paula News

The last of three Saticoy gang members pleaded guilty last week to animal cruelty charges for using scissors to crop a pit bull puppy’s ears in the Santa Paula backyard of one of the defendants, a crime that was discovered after it was posted on the social networking site

In addition, the cases might be the first time that gang members have been convicted of animal cruelty with gang enhancement added to the charge.

The last of the three defendants, Joe Zamora, 33, was scheduled to go to trial January 28, but during jury selection he opted to plea guilty to animal cruelty along with the gang enhancement in exchange for three years in prison. Zamora also pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of ammunition.

Zamora and the other two defendants, Joshua Mendoza and Jonathan Gaona, both 20 - who will be sentenced later - were arrested in March. The three are members of Cabrillo Village, described as a violent criminal street gang located in Saticoy.

The month-long investigation started when Ventura Police Department Officer David Ruggiero, who had been assigned to the gang unit, found five photographs of the pit bull puppy getting its ears cropped on More photographs were found by police during the execution of search warrants, including those showing the three defendants celebrating the ear cropping; one showed a gang member holding up his bloody hand and flashing a gang sign.

Clipping a dog’s ears with scissors in an environment that is not sterile or without anesthesia or aftercare is extremely painful and cruel to the animal. Although a veterinarian would charge about $300 to crop a dog’s ears, gang members allegedly like the ragged “tough” look of a homemade cropping, which in turn enhances the image of the gang.

Mendoza, who will be sentenced February 22, is facing six years in prison. Gaona will be sentenced on March 10 and could receive 16 months, a sentence that might be considered completed, as he has served his prison time.

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