The law enforcement career of a Kyle police officer might be over after a Travis County jury found him guilty Thursday of beating and seriously injuring a dog he bought for his fiancée last year.
David Salinas’ felony conviction for animal cruelty triggers the automatic revocation of his peace officer’s license, according to state law. He must also surrender the dog, a 7-year-old poodle named Frisco, under a sentencing agreement his lawyers reached with prosecutors.
After deliberating for more than eight hours Thursday, the jury reached a verdict and sided with prosecutors who had argued the 17 broken ribs Frisco sustained in April 2017 were the result of a beating from Salinas. The dog also suffered a punctured lung and significant bruising.
Salinas, 34, was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation and an anger management program. Salinas and his fiancée must turn over Frisco to a foster family within 15 days.
A city of Kyle spokeswoman said earlier in the day, “We are monitoring the case and will take any appropriate actions based on the outcome.” Salinas is employed full-time with the police department in an administrative role.
A spokeswoman with the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas said no final determination on Salinas’ status as a police officer would be made until any appeals process is completed.
Frisco came to live with the couple in October 2016 after Salinas accepted his fiancée’s plea for a dog. Salinas visited the Austin Humane Society and sent the woman a photo of a poodle, who went by Benny. She was infatuated, and Salinas obtained the dog for $100. The couple renamed him Frisco after the city where the Dallas Cowboys training facility is based.
In closing arguments Thursday, prosecutors told the jury that Salinas had an indifferent relationship with Frisco and was irritated with increased responsibilities after his fiancée became pregnant and could no longer clean up after the dog.
On April 22, Salinas was home with the dog while his fiancée was at work. He told detectives he bathed the dog and placed him on the patio while he cleaned the apartment.
Salinas said nothing unusual happened until he walked Frisco while taking trash to the dumpster. The dog stopped at some point and could no longer walk, he said.
When Salinas’ fiancée returned from work, the couple took Frisco to the hospital. The staff shaved the dog’s furry white coat, revealing significant bruises — most on the left side of the body. The injuries were so severe that a veterinarian discussed with the couple the option of euthanizing the dog.
Bruises to the groin area and the ear were “very curious,” said prosecutor Christy May, who told the jury Salinas was angry with the half-deaf dog for urinating in the house.
“Everybody has a breaking point,” she said.
Another prosecutor, Jessica Wolfe, said Salinas “got carried away and took it too far.” She added: “You don’t know what hit this dog. That’s fine. You know something hit this dog.”
Multiple experts testified the injuries were the result of blunt force trauma from an unknown object. Wolfe suggested Salinas had kicked the dog, but noted the state is not required by law to prove what weapon that caused the injuries.
Salinas’ lawyer, Gene Anthes, argued there is no evidence indicating Salinas had anything to do with Frisco’s injuries. He said the dog could have escaped from the patio and been hit by a car or been struck by someone passing along the home. He even said the dog might have been injured by a maintenance worker who was in the home.
Salinas did not testify, with the defense calling no witnesses Thursday before resting their case. Anthes told the jury Salinas didn’t need to take the witness stand because his story is consistent with what he told police at the time of Frisco’s injuries.
Salinas had pleaded not guilty and opted for a trial rather than surrendering his badge in a proposed plea deal with prosecutors. They were willing to dismiss the case if Salinas also signed a document saying the evidence against him is sufficient for a conviction.
The dog still lives with the couple after a justice of the peace ruled last year in favor of Salinas maintaining ownership of Frisco.