"Gimme a break people. This is not normal." That's what Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto said earlier this week, when he told a news conference that his office arrested a veterinarian for shooting her next-door neighbor's dog in the head. The animal later had to be euthanized.
"This is crazy, a veterinarian shooting a dog of her next-door neighbor," Lopinto said. "This is nuts. I don't know how else to put it. . . . This is not what veterinarians do. . . . We can all complain about someone's barking dog, but this is over the top."
The veterinarian's lawyer denies that she shot the dog. He also claimed Lopinto is smearing her name with a sensational story in an attempt to gain headlines before an upcoming sheriff's race.
It all began with Bruiser, a 15-month-old American bulldog who lived with his owner, Stacey Fitzner, in River Ridge, a suburb of New Orleans. Fitzner described the 15-month-old pup to WVUE as "friendly" and "loving" and said he was part of the family, one who joined it just after her son was born.
"He was always in the bed with us. He was always licking us. My son would ride him," Fitzner told WVUE, adding, "He was a great, wonderful American bulldog."
Not everyone loved the dog, it seemed. Kelly Folse, Fitzner's 35-year-old next-door neighbor, was allegedly one of them. Even though Folse worked as a veterinarian, she was allegedly often frustrated by the dog's barking and documented those frustrations, according to police. For the past six months, Folse recorded Bruiser's barking and sent the videos - along with unhappy text messages - to Fitzner, Lopinto said in a news conference.
When Fitzner was at work last Wednesday, her mother stopped by the house - only to find Bruiser lying still and silent in the fenced-in back yard. Blood was everywhere, pouring from a gunshot wound in his furry head, Fitzner told WVUE.
"Someone had to come up behind him and put the gun to him and shoot him," she said.
She rushed the dog to the nearby Abadie Veterinary Hospital, where Folse worked. She wasn't on duty, however, and the other veterinarians cared for Bruiser.
"The vision of Bruiser, the way he was will stay with me forever," Scott Abadie, who owns the hospital, told WWL. "He had a bullet hole in the back of his head. An entry hole. And it came out through his right eye."
Bruiser was euthanized, Fitzner told WVUE.
Fitzner told police about the videos and text messages. They obtained a search warrant for Folse's house, Lopinto said in a news conference.
There, they found bottles of diazepam and Adderall, at least one of which police said she would prescribe to animals then take herself, the New Orleans Advocate reported.
Lopinto said Folse was arrested for aggravated cruelty to animals and illegal discharge of a weapon and two counts of drug possession. It is unclear whether she has entered a plea.
She was also immediately fired from the veterinary hospital.
"The owner of Bruiser had text messages from her that were just totally inappropriate and disgusting, saying things about Bruiser. So that gave us the first clue to it," Abadie told WWL. "And later that morning there was some statements made about the dog that did not sit well with the technicians and myself and we just told her to leave right there."
Robert Garrity Jr., Folse's attorney, said "she didn't shoot the dog" and that Folse was arrested on nonexistent evidence. He claimed the sheriff made the arrest in an attempt to bolster his profile for the sheriff's race in January.
"Our sheriff made a political grandstand in his campaign because he has no evidence whatsoever that this poor girl, that he gutted, has done anything," Garrity told the Times-Picayune, adding that the arrest ruined Folse's life.
"I don't think they have jack on this lady," Garrity said. "She's done nothing to deserve what she got."
Lopinto denied that the arrest had anything to do with his political aspirations.