Former Dog Groomer James Johns Enters Plea In Animal Abuse Case

Former dog groomer James Johns pleads guilty today (Monday) in Boone County circuit court to animal abuse, a class A misdemeanor.

The case was heard in Boone County on a change of venue from Audrain County and stems from a July 2019 incident where he and Taylor Stout abused Petunia, a Yorkie, during a grooming session.

Judge Jeff Harris sentenced Johns to six months in the Boone County Jail, with suspended imposition of sentence and was placed on two years of court-supervised probation with the conditions that he serve 2 days of shock detention in the Boone County Jail, complete 100 hours of community service within a year, complete Benchmark Animal Rehabilitation Curriculum, and cannot possess additional pets or animals beyond his current pets.

Taylor Stout was recently sentenced for her part in the crime.

“Animal abuse cases result in a lot of passion and emotion, and this case is no exception,” said Audrain County Prosecuting Attorney Jacob Shellabarger. “Today’s guilty plea is an admission that Mr. Johns committed the crime of animal abuse – a misdemeanor under Missouri law – that resulted in harm to an animal. He accepted responsibility and was sentenced to a firm sentence that involves intensive supervision, significant community service, restrictions on his activities, and jail all as sanctions. If Mr. Johns violates any one condition of his probation, the Court may sentence him to serve up to the full six months sentence in jail. Today’s sentencing is an affirmation that if you hurt animals, you will be held accountable.”

“Animal abuse is a misdemeanor under Missouri law unless the State can show it was a deliberate act, with purpose or intention to cause injury or suffering by torture to the animal,” Shellabarger said. “In this case, the video evidence shows a series of abusive actions taken in a short period of time. The video is shocking, and shows a callous and violent act. There’s no excuse for what happened – but the crime fits the facts. After full review of the evidence, the State couldn’t prove those two words, by torture, beyond a reasonable doubt – so the case remains a misdemeanor based on the way the law’s written.”

“This case has caused strong reactions across our community, but cases have to be resolved within the bounds of existing law,” Shellabarger said. “The sentence in this case was reached in consultation with the families involved and after their input and agreement. The court heard from the families and from those affected by this crime. This result balances punishment with restorative justice. Ultimately, justice is the goal and fairness under the law, not a specific result, sentence or classification of offense.”

Petunia, a Yorkie dog, has continued medical issues but lives in Mexico with her owners. The case was investigated by Audrain County Sheriff Matt Oller, and Petunia’s veterinary care was provided by University of Missouri Veterinary Medicine. “Sheriff Oller’s investigation, coupled with clear video evidence and multiple veterinary medicine experts, clearly showed these defendant’s actions. The shop owner’s decisive and immediate action after she was made aware of what happened meant this crime could be prosecuted, and it took great courage to come forward with an abuse report by an employee. This owner did what any citizen should do – brought evidence forward, cooperated with the investigation, and took clear action to protect animals and make right what she could, even if it was not her fault. “This case was prosecuted by our office’s now former assistant prosecuting attorney Kristin Arnold,” Shellabarger said. “Her passion for protecting the vulnerable, dedication and expertise led to a just result.”