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          Front Page




Shelter Gets Custody of Dogs

By Isabel Sanchez
Journal Staff Writer
    An Armstrong County, Texas, judge has granted custody to a local shelter of 24 dogs found in the van of an Albuquerque dog breeder charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty.
    Mike Kassabji, also known as Mohamed Kassabji, was arrested and jailed in Texas on March 12 after a sheriff's deputy found 29 caged dogs of various breeds in Kassabji's van. One was dead.
    At the time, the number of dogs was given as 27, so Kassabji was charged with 27 counts of animal cruelty. The number has since been revised to 29 dogs, and another four have died.
    Armstrong County Judge Hugh Reed reversed an order by a justice of the peace returning the dogs to Kassabji, sheriff's deputy Curtice Spencer said.
    Kassabji posted bond and was released, Spencer said. The dogs had been taken to the Amarillo Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
    Gayle Luna, president of the ASPCA, said the dogs, small breeds such as Yorkshire terriers, Chihuahuas and dachshunds, are all in foster homes. The organization now has custody and can make them available for adoption.
    First, she said, they need dental work, sterilization, shots and other care.
    "Now we'll proceed and get them the medical attention they need," she said.
    In addition to the dog found dead in Kassabji's van, essentially of starvation, another dog died of emaciation, she said. Two died of parvo and a fourth, a Chihuahua, died while trying to give birth.
    Kassabji has a long history with Albuquerque Animal Services Division officers, who have cited him numerous times, mostly over failures to have the proper permits.
    He has not been charged with animal cruelty in Albuquerque. However, a bench warrant for his arrest was issued March 23 for failure to contact his probation officer. Kassabji had been found guilty last year of keeping sick or diseased animals, according to Metropolitan Court records.
    The 27 misdemeanor animal cruelty counts in Armstrong County will be raised to 29, Spencer said, and additional charges could be added by neighboring Texas counties.