Although the preliminary hearing for alleged animal abuser Kimberly Nizato, 26, was continued until July 26 on Monday, some testimony regarding Courage, the severely emaciated German Shepherd dog, was heard by the court. Nizato, a Bellflower mother who previously worked at Southern California Veterinary Specialty Hospital in Irvine, was in court for the proceedings. She is charged with felony animal cruelty.
The hearing, presided over by Judge Richard M. Goul, at Bellflower Superior Court was continued due to a packed court schedule, according to the Orange County Register. The publication's photographer was also in the court Monday to document the events.
Two previous preliminary hearing dates were rescheduled after Nizato's attorney, Andrew Stein, requested medical records from the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office.
Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Bainbridge began outlining some of the framework in this case, which began unfolding in April after Courage was rescued from Nizato's home by a good Samaritan and then German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County. The dog, then weighing just a frightening 37 pounds, was rushed to a veterinary hospital where things were extremely touch-and-go.
Today, Courage tops the scales at more than 80 pounds. He is healthy, in school, playing with his older "brother" and adopted by the loving woman who helped rescue him. She has before preferred to remain anonymous, but has come forth to testify on Courage's behalf.
At Monday's hearing, witnesses filling in the gaps from April 6 until today took the stand. First off was Lisa Whiseant, the good Samaritan who is now Courage's new mom. (The OC Dogs Examiner ran the first-ever interview with her. Read it here.)
According to the Register, Whiseant testified that Nizato’s sister, Kristen Nizato Leavenworth, contacted her via e-mail to inform her of the dog's dire condition, but was now on the mend. After some back-and-forth online, it was decided that Whiseant would take the dog, then named Bosco.
Upon arrival at Nizato's Bellflower home, Whiseant found Nizato waiting for her in the garage. The dog was folded into a dog kennel, lying on his side and wailing. He didn't have the strength to stand or even raise his head, according to veterinary reports. Whiseant immediately got the dog into her car and took him to a veterinary clinic.
The veterinarian who initially treated Courage, Dr. David Weber, also testified in court on Monday.
He detailed Courage's medical condition as seen the night of his arrival: impacted intestines, severe malnutrition, organ distress. Courage was treated, and then transferred the next day to Community Veterinary Hospital in Garden Grove with Dr. Bill Grant, who also testified Monday.
In a big blow to the defense, Grant stated that no underlying health conditions would have been responsible for Courage's near-death health. Nizato's attorney has said Courage suffered from medical issues, thus his emaciated state. It's been previously reported that medical personnel working with Courage state that the dog's quick and impressive recovery and weight gain (sometimes a pound a day or more) lead more proof to the pudding that he was starved and not suffering from any medical issue or illness.
What many following this case hope to hear in the coming weeks is the answer to the question "why."
It's alleged that Nizato had the dog from his puppy days until his relinquishment at age 3. What caused this young mother, someone who worked in the veterinary industry as a kennel attendant, to stop feeding her dog for upwards of five weeks? Was there other abuse going on? How did no one turn to help before the 11th hour? Why did no one else in the household (Nizato lives with her parents and her daughter) reach out for help? Why wasn't the dog surrendered to a rescue group, a medical clinic or the local animal shelter as soon as he was unwanted? Are mental issues playing a part in this drama? Is there something darker going on behind the tragedy? Many blog posters have issued such questions.
There doesn't seem to be any quick answers to the mysteries surrounding Courage's case, but the prosecution is determined to get to the bottom of the guilty or not-guilty issue. Hopefully, according to those connected to this case, more answers will come out along the way.
The case continues July 26 in Bellflower. If convicted, Nizato faces three years in state prison and a $20,000 fine.
Check out the OC Register's slideshow of Monday's hearing here.
also an interview with the rescuer/new owner here:
Examiner exclusive: Courage's new owner and savior speaks about the ordeal