Vonna Hughes

The former owner of an Angels Camp pet grooming business who pleaded no contest to felony animal negligence in 2019 may face a jail term in Calaveras County Jail after being accused of violating probation by failing to provide county probation with her address.

“No one could find her,” said Sgt. Greg Stark with the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office.

Hughes, 77, was sentenced by Judge Susan C. Harlan on May 7 to three years of formal probation and up to 60 days in the Calaveras County Jail or in an alternative sentencing program for her role in the treatment of a 9-year-old American pitbull, Cici, who was found dead in Murphys after being lodged at the now closed Pet Bath House in Angels Camp.

Stark said Hughes “showed up to probation to check in” and she was arrested on an active warrant for a violation of probation . Her arrest by Calaveras County Probation was recorded at 3:53 p.m. on Monday. Her city of residence was identified as Modesto. 

Hughes appeared in the Calaveras County Superior Court on Tuesday for an arraignment hearing on her felony probation violation, but she did not enter a plea.

A court clerk with the Calaveras County Superior Court said Hughes appeared before Judge Timothy Healy and was in the custody of the Calaveras County Jail. Hughes indicated to the court she could hire her own attorney and her arraignment was scheduled for Thursday at 10:30 a.m.

Bail was denied and Hughes remains in the custody of the Calaveras County Jail.

Calaveras County Probation has recommended Hughes receive a term of 90 days in county jail.

Steve Mendoza, owner of Cici and two pitbulls who were lodged at Pet Bath House and later found alive by Calaveras County Animal Services, said he was concerned about the alleged probation violation because he believed Hughes deserved a harsher punishment for Cici’s death. 

“I was the one that had to make the calls to find out about her because I’ve heard rumors she was in Modesto,” he said. “I wanted her to have more time for what she did to Cici.”

Mendoza said he had not received any of the $2,125 in restitution from Hughes which was mandated by the court. 

“I haven’t gotten a dime,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza said he was not at the arraignment on Tuesday because he didn’t find out about it until after it occured. He said he planned to be there on Thursday if he found a ride. 

At the time of her sentencing in 2019, Hughes was ordered to report to the Calaveras County Probation Department to determine her eligibility for alternatives to jail time.

A Calaveras County Sheriff’s deputy confirmed at the time Hughes was in the custody of the jail following her latest reporting date of June 21, 2019. Her release date was set on July 17, 2019.

According to Hughes’ probation report, she could not seek or obtain employment related to animals for the duration of her probation.

Her probation terms said she may face up to four years in prison if she violates probation.

Hughes was arrested in July 2017 on animal abuse charges. She was accused of three counts of felony animal cruelty, two counts of felony grand theft and two counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty by the Calaveras County District Attorney’s Office related to the three pitbulls left in her care in June 2017 by Butte Fire survivors Mendoza and his wife Natalie.

In early July 2017, Casper, 11, a red-nose pit bull; Cici, 9, an American pit bull, and Coco, 3, a brindle pit bull, disappeared from Pet Bath House. Cici was found dead in a trash bag at a Utica Power Authority property in Murphys about a month later. Casper and Coco were located by Calaveras County Animal Services.

Hughes said the dogs attacked her and other dogs in her care due to kennel stress. The prosecution alleged she charged inflated bills to the Mendozas for injuries she claimed she and the other animals sustained. 

All of the charges except felony animal negligence were dropped according to a plea bargain.

The Pet Bath House, a pet grooming and kennel business, was opened in 2013 and closed by the City of Angels Camp following her arrest. 

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or gricapito@uniondemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter @g_ricapito 


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