Local News

Raleigh man acquitted on animal cruelty charges

Posted November 3, 2008

— A judge on Monday cleared a Raleigh man accused of killing his neighbor's chihuahua.

David Lance Upchurch was charged two months ago with cruelty to animals after a neighbor said he held the 5-pound dog to the ground and squeezed it between the breastbone and neck.

Upchurch maintained he was defending himself and his dog against the chihuahua.


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  • clintoflannagan Nov 4, 2008

    And before people get out the torches to go after Judge Lawton, one of our best District Court Judges, here's a summary of the evidence he heard and what he said about it:

    Two small-animal veterinarians testified last week that any trauma Noah might have endured at Upchurch's hand could have worsened an existing heart condition, but they could not testify that it led to Noah's death.

    Lawton said Monday the law required an acquittal, despite his "gut feeling and love of small animals."

    "The defendant definitely acted without justifiable excuse," Lawton said, questioning why a 170-pound man could not put himself between a 6-pound dog and the 100-pound dog he said was protecting.


  • clintoflannagan Nov 4, 2008

    This case came down to a causation issue. Even the prosecution's veterinary witnesses were unable to testify to necessary certainty that Upchurch caused the dog's death. The Judge can only rule on the testimony he hears. If the testimony did not establish that Upchurch killed the dog then the Judge can't find him guilty of killing the dog.

    To answer another question, there is no appeal from this verdict. They technically can pursue a civil action although their chances of recovering anything are slim.

  • no contest Nov 4, 2008

    A responsible pet owner would keep their pets under control. Keep your dogs on a leash people. You cannot know if a loose dog that is showing teeth does or does not have rabies or some other problem. I have very little sympathy for the dog owner.

  • no contest Nov 4, 2008

    Raleigh police have shot and killed dogs for showing their teeth. One dog was shot while tied up on the front porch.

  • teacher56 Nov 3, 2008

    This man deserves prison time and/or a huge fine for the cruelty he showed that woman and her dog. He is a despicable excuse of a human being. I hope Ms. Richardson gets some help from an animal rights group to pursue this further. The ruling was wrong.

  • dta27615 Nov 3, 2008

    actually, the N&O, Upchurch's employer, did publish the judge's name: "Wake District Court Judge William Lawton said he could not conclude that the actions of David Upchurch of 1028 Cookwood Court caused the death of the 12-year-old, long-haired Chihuahua, Noah"

  • howdiditgettothis Nov 3, 2008

    Guess what?

    Judges make BAD decisions every single day, and this was one of them.

    It is insane to think that a 5 pound dog would intimidate a full grown man. Puhleease!

    You will NEVER convince me of it.

    Animal cruelty - you bet ya!

    Too bad WRAL didn't post the judges name. I'd vote him out tomorrow if I could!

  • Kristen168 Nov 3, 2008

    No one bats an eye about swatting a fly dead. This man obviously used too much force as the dog is dead, but Chihuahuas will attack without provocation. They were bred to jump up and grab hold of a bull's nose & hang on. Yes, a little crazy, this is true. But they are too small to have such bad tempers and it gets them in trouble.

  • Brogden Nov 3, 2008

    Gee, immacop - you must not be able to read.
    A JUDGE ruled this. There was NO JURY OF HIS PEERS
    So easy to get on your soapbox without knowing the facts!

  • rescuefan Nov 3, 2008

    It doesn't take much of a man to kill a 5 lb dog (or chipmunk, how ridiculous is that to say!). It takes a real man to use some self restraint in a situation like that. But apparently he didn't have it and some of the posters here don't either. I'd hate to see what happens when a person upsets them and what their response would be. Even worse if it's a small child, I can imagine since a child would be pretty darn defenseless, too.