Nebraska Humane Society employees quietly rejoiced Wednesday when an Omaha woman was convicted of felony animal neglect.
A Douglas County District Court jury deliberated for about 90 minutes before finding Mashaunda I. Ball guilty of causing a Boston terrier named Bubbles to die of starvation.
Ball, 35, could face up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine when she is sentenced by Judge Shelly Stratman.
Mark Langan, vice president for field operations at the Humane Society, said Ball adopted Bubbles from the shelter in August 2012.
Langan said that at sentencing he will push to ban Ball from owning animals for 15 years, as is allowed under the law.
“Everyone here took this dog’s death very hard because of that (adoption),” Langan said. “This dog died a horrendous, slow, agonizing death, and that’s why (Ball) was charged.”
Tom McKenney, an assistant prosecutor in the Douglas County Attorney’s Office, and Langan said animal cruelty cases can be hard to prosecute.
“Frankly, there are a good portion of people out there who don’t think animal abuse warrants criminal prosecution,” McKenney said. “There’s always sympathy for the people involved as well as the animal.”
McKenney filed the charge after an animal control officer from the Humane Society was called to Ball’s house on Nov. 26, 2012, to dispose of a dead dog.
The officer testified that she found an emaciated but still alive Bubbles in a kennel cage in the basement. Photographs showed the dog, its ribs sticking out, lying on its side in its own waste and blood.
Ball agreed to surrender the dog to the Humane Society, and Bubbles was rushed to the Animal Emergency Clinic at 96th Street and Mockingbird Drive.
Dr. Brooke Porter, a veterinarian there, testified that Bubbles weighed 21 pounds when he was adopted but just 13 pounds when she examined him. Porter said that the dog was covered in crusted urine and feces and that his paws were bloody. Before treatment could begin, Bubbles’ condition worsened and she decided to euthanize him.
The next day, Humane Society veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Marriott examined the dog’s remains and found that the cause of death was starvation. She said the lack of any body fat as well as complete muscle wasting were abnormal.
Porter and Marriott said Bubbles had not been bathed often, if at all. The dog’s nails were overgrown, they said, and starting to curl.
Ball, a loan specialist at First National Bank, testified that Bubbles had been treated as “part of the family.” She said he had been regularly fed, let outside and bathed.
The dog was adopted, she said, as a pet for her two children, ages 8 and 13, with the agreement that everyone in the family would be responsible for his care.
“Bubbles did have accidents in the house because he was not house-trained,” she said.
Ball, who sobbed during parts of her testimony, said Bubbles was chosen because he was “so cute” and she thought that as a smaller, older dog, he would more easily “adapt to the family.”
She attributed Bubbles’ emaciated condition to his being “a geriatric dog” and his having been ill “for about a week.”
“I feel really bad about what happened to Bubbles, but my kids and I loved him as a member of my family,” Ball said. “Because of this, we’ll never own another pet. It’s been too traumatizing.”