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Woman caught on-camera kicking dog charged with animal cruelty

Sara Stafford.jpg
Sara Stafford{ }caught on-camera kicking dog charged with animal cruelty Nov. 27, 2019. (WWMT/Courtesy Kalamazoo County Jail)

A Kalamazoo woman is facing charges of cruelty to animals after she was seen on a surveillance camera kicking a dog several times.

Sara Stafford, 33, was captured kicking the dog three times before confronting and assaulting a woman outside her home on the 400 block of Keyes Drive in Parchment, Nov. 25, 2019.

This video contains disturbing images and is not suitable for all audiences:

Kalamazoo County District Judge Anne Blatchford arraigned Stafford Wednesday, Nov. 27, on first-degree felony home invasion, aggravated assault and cruelty to animals.

Kalamazoo Township Police Detective Sgt. Haynor testified before Blatchford at the probable cause hearing prior to the arrest warrant for Stafford was issued.

Haynor testified Stafford was captured on surveillance video kicking a dog three separate times, "Hard enough to make the dog fly through the air several feet."

Haynor testified Stafford became upset because she thought the victim was sleeping with a mutual acquaintance and went to the victim's home to confront her.

"Stafford arrived at the residence and let the victim's small Maltese terrier dog out of the house before kicking the dog." Haynor said.

Haynor said Stafford then opened the door, punched her in the face, rushed in the home and continued assaulting the victim.

"The victim believes she was punched in the head and face approximately 12 times and was rendered unconscious," said Haynor.

Haynor said the victim suffered a possible broken jaw and had a tooth knocked out of her mouth.

Haynor said when the victim woke up she found Stafford stepping on her throat and said, "How's your back surgery feel now?"

Blatchford called the attack fairly heinous and said Stafford posed a threat to the victim and animal involved.

Blatchford set Stafford's bond at $50,000. She's currently being held at the Kalamazoo County Jail.

A family member of the victim said the dog was treated at a veterinarian for minor injuries.

"The woman was blatantly kicking the puppy. That poor thing did nothing aggressive," Julie Barber, the director of community connections for the Kalamazoo Humane Society, said.

Barber said the case may have been tough to prosecute if the act had not been caught on-camera.

"Without the camera this case would be very hard especially with the puppy being uninjured," she said.

If convicted, Stafford could face up to 93 days in jail for the dog assault alone. Stafford faces up to 20 years in prison for the home invasion and up to one year in prison for the aggregated assault charge.

Barber said she believes punishment for animal cruelty don't go far enough.

"I saw a person who routinely fought dogs with decades of history get credit for time served with two days in jail. It was sickening," Barber said.

Kalamazoo County Assistant Prosecutor Scott Brower said the animal cruelty charge is a 93-day misdemeanor. This statute is violated if someone “did cruelly drive, work, or beat an animal.”

Brower said a more serious felony offense would occur only if the person did “knowingly kill, torture, mutilate, maim, disfigure or administer poison to” an animal.

Court records indicate Stafford has no previous history of abuse to animals.

Stafford was cited in Kalamazoo Township in July 2019 for animals running at large. Stafford was fined $200 for letting her dogs run loose.

As part of a court order following the arraignment, The Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement spent the evening on Nov. 27 removing Stafford's pets from her home.

New state and federal laws to crack down on animal abuse

On Monday, President Donald Trump has signed a bill that makes certain acts of animal cruelty a federal felony. Proponents said The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (PACT) would combat "heinous and sadistic acts of cruelty."

In March 2019, laws went into effect in Michigan to ensure stiffer penalties for animal abuse. The two state laws taking effect this month increase the maximum penalty for killing or torturing an animal from four years to 10 years in prison,

Barber said neither of the federal or state law change would impact Stafford's case.

"It's disheartening animal welfare isn’t taking as seriously, but these small steps like changes to the state law and resolution of this PACT law federally really show animal welfare law has come a long way. Although it’s baby steps," Barber said.

Editor's note: The misspelling of the Kalamazoo County District judges name was corrected.