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Pahrump area man arrested on animal cruelty charges

A Pahrump man was arrested on two counts of animal cruelty charges after Nye County Sheriff’s Office deputies discovered a wounded desert tortoise on his property this month.

The suspect, identified as Phillip Peng, was arrested on an unrelated matter at the Idaho Street home on July 14, according to a sheriff’s office arrest report.

Death trap

Detective Morgan Dillon noted that while securing the property, deputies observed a desert tortoise in a bucket full of water on the back porch.

“The water was approximately seven to 10 inches deep in a plastic tub that the tortoise could not get out of,” Dillon said. “The water was deeper than the tortoise was tall, and the tortoise appeared to struggle to stay above the water.”

Additionally, the report stated that when the tortoise was removed from the water, deputies observed that an approximate one-quarter-inch puncture was discovered on the animal’s rear shell, along with another puncture wound several inches from the first.

“It appeared that another hole had attempted to be punctured in,” the report noted. “A long cord with a metal clasp at the end was secured to the porch near the back door and a metal ‘S’ hook was laying near the clasp.”

Tethered tortoise

The report went on to state that the S-hook did fit inside the hole of the animal’s shell and Peng actually told deputies that the tortoise was kept on a leash at the home.

“There was no shelter or burrow for the tortoise, and the leash kept it tethered so that it could only go partially out into the yard, but otherwise it was confined to the open porch area.”

Veterinarian’s evaluation

The tortoise was subsequently removed from the residence by Nye County Animal Control officers for protective custody and was taken to a local reptile specialist veterinarian for examination.

“The doctor stated that the hole in the animal’s shell appeared to be healed, but that it would have caused extreme pain to have the hole inserted, and for the injury to heal,” the report stated. “The doctor further stated that the depth of the water the tortoise was located in was too deep for it, and that the tortoise would have grown tired of trying to escape and would have eventually drowned had it been left in the bucket.”

Also during the examination, the report stated that the doctor identified injuries to the insides of the animal’s front feet.

“The doctor stated that the injuries appeared to be caused by the wearing down of the animal’s skin from constantly trying to pull itself against the tension of the leash,” according to the report. “The doctor stated that a tortoise would not recognize that it was tethered and therefore would endlessly struggle against the tension in an effort to free itself from the situation. The repeated scraping of the animal’s front feet trying to pull against the leash, wore down the skin. The doctor stated that the injuries would have gotten progressively worse had it not been taken into protective custody.”

Not-so-lucky find

While interviewing Peng about the incident, the report noted that he had possessed the animal for about four years after finding it while out on a walk near his house.

“Peng stated that he drilled the holes in the animal’s shell with a power drill in order to attach the leash,” Dillon’s report stated. “Peng also stated that the first hole began to grow larger and fracture over time as the S-hook pulled on the shell, so he drilled the second hole, also with a power drill. Ping stated that he filled the first hole with epoxy after drilling the second hole.”

Peng was eventually booked into the Nye County Detention Center without incident on two felony counts of animal cruelty.

It should be noted that the Mojave Desert tortoise is listed as a threatened species and as such, is protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and Nevada Administrative Code, (NAC 50.080).

Additionally, it is illegal to remove a desert tortoise from the wild without a special permit.

It is also illegal to touch, harass, disturb or pick up a wild desert tortoise or disturb their burrows.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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