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Advocates Say Pit Bull’s Death Led To Animal Welfare Protections

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Baltimore brothers are cleared of killing a pit bull. But animal rights activists say the dog did not die in vain.

Weijia Jiang has more on the changes that came from her tragic death.

Animal welfare advocates say Phoenix’s horrific death was a turning point for the city, and it’s because of her other animals are more protected than ever before.

Phoenix, the pit bull puppy, was not the first dog to be fatally abused in Baltimore but she’s the first one many people remember.

“Phoenix did not die in vain. I do believe she was a catalyst for change for Baltimore in many ways,” Jennifer Brause, director for Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), said.

Despite prosecutors’ second failure to convict 20-year-old twin brothers Traverse and Tremayne Johnson in the case, animal welfare advocates claim victory.

“Justice denied does not mean good does not come of something,” Ann Gearhart of the Snyder Foundation said.

After Phoenix’s 2009 death sparked nationwide outrage, Baltimore became the first city in the country to form an Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force which has since grown into a commission made up of eight agencies.

“Our relationship with the police department has expanded,” Brause explained. “There’s a lot more communication. The state’s attorney’s office is involved in prosecuting cases. So everyone’s working together.”

Before the city met Phoenix, there was no tracking system for animal cruelty cases. But now there’s a record of each one reported. Last year, there were 200.

More reporting means more convictions.

A college student was sentenced to 90 days in prison for mutilating several cats. Two teens were arrested for setting a cat on fire. And a man was charged for launching a small Yorkshire Terrier off a balcony.

Those animals are now in better homes. Phoenix’s impact will only grow stronger.

“Unfortunately, it took a horrendous act like this for us to get galvanized but we are together. We will continue to fight,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

Since Phoenix’s death, several new measures have been adopted to protect animals statewide. Notably, convicted abusers are not allowed to have a pet for five years after their cases wrap up.

Several cities across the country have formed task forces of their own modeled after Baltimore’s.

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