Vonna Hughes

Vonna Hughes, the former owner of an Angels Camp dog kennel who was convicted of felony animal cruelty last April, will remain in jail, pending a mental health assessment.

Hughes, 77, appeared at the Calaveras County courthouse today for her continued arraignment. She was arrested at the Calaveras County Probation Office on Monday after she allegedly failed to report a place of residence.

Steven Mendoza, owner of pit bulls CiCi, Casper and CoCo, was present during the proceedings. A few supporters were also present, wearing “Justice for CiCi” t-shirts. After being left in Hughes’ care, CiCi was found dead in a trash bag, and Casper and CoCo were located roaming different parts of the county.

As she was led into the courtroom, Hughes gaped at her attorney Ken Foley and at a relative in the audience, appearing upset.

Foley, who has previously represented Hughes, told Calaveras County Superior Court Judge David Sanders that he had not spoken with his client prior to her appearance today in court.

However, Foley stated that he was aware that Hughes was homeless and without a means of transportation, making it difficult for her to check in at the probation office in Calaveras County.

“Last I heard from her, she was going to a facility in Lodi,” he said. “The fact that she showed up at probation and was arrested should have been taken into account. … She wasn’t trying to abscond.”

Foley recommended that Hughes be released from jail and undergo a mental health assessment as soon as possible.

When asked by Judge Sanders if she told the probation office that she would be staying at the Salvation Army in Modesto, Hughes replied that she did not remember saying that.

Sanders then asked Hughes’ relative, who reportedly traveled from Arkansas to help her, how long she would be able to remain in the area.

“I didn’t know it was this big,” the young woman replied. She stated that she had intended to help Hughes settle in Arkansas with family. “I didn’t know she wasn’t allowed to leave.”

According to the probation department, Hughes would be permitted to leave the state as long as she provided proper documentation, including a permanent address.

Judge Sanders moved to deny bail “for Ms. Hughes’ own safety” and ruled that the probation department should facilitate a mental health assessment for her while in custody.

A Violation of Probation pretrial conference was scheduled Feb. 18.

In May, Hughes was sentenced to 60 days local jail time and 36 months of formal probation for the abusive treatment of Mendoza’s three dogs and for continuing to collect payment without informing him of their whereabouts.

However, Hughes only served 27 days in jail during the months of June and July before being released, according to the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office.

Hughes was also ordered to pay victim Mendoza $2,125 in restitution, not a cent of which he has received, Mendoza told the Enterprise today.

“I just wanted to get the restitution so I could put it toward Casper and CoCo,” Mendoza said.


Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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