The two people charged with trying to burn down a pet shop with 27 puppies inside pleaded not guilty Wednesday.
Gloria Lee, 35, and Kirk Bills, 27, both appeared before District Judge David Barker in navy blue jail scrubs with their legs and hands shackled.
The pair faces 31 charges, including 27 counts of attempted animal cruelty, one for each dog for the fire at the Prince and Princess Pet Boutique in January. If convicted, they could face dozens of years in prison.
A trial date was set for July 7.
Following heated arguments in the courtroom, Barker denied a request by Lee’s lawyer, Tom Pitaro, to release her on her own recognizance or lower her bail to $10,000.
Lee and Bills both remain jailed in the Clark County Detention Center on $310,000 bail.
Surveillance video from the pet shop shows a woman letting a man wearing a hood and showing dreadlocks into the shop, where he tried to start a fire using kerosene and gasoline splashed onto the animal cages. The woman is seen removing documents from the business and helping the hooded man by collecting the empty fuel cans before the fire is set.
Prosecutors say the man and woman in the video are Bills and Lee.
Lee later told investigators that she was forced at gunpoint to let the man into the store, and she said her estranged husband, Donald Thompson, was behind the arson, according to grand jury testimony. But authorities didn’t believe her because she appeared to be working with the man in the video.
The dark video obtained by the Review-Journal shows the flames spreading across the floor of the pet shop and onto the cages. Some dogs, trapped in cages, can be seen scrambling away from the blaze as smoke rises.
Meanwhile, a coalition of animal-loving activists, led by Gina Greisen of Nevada Voters for Animals, say they have raised the $8,000 for a bond needed to stop an adoption raffle of the dogs by the Animal Foundation, which has sheltered the puppies since the Jan. 27 fire.
The animal activists have called the raffle unethical and illegal under Clark County code and are supporting the pet store’s co-owner, Thompson.
Lawyer Jacob Hafter, who is representing Prince and Princess Pet Boutique, said Thompson wants the dogs to be given to a local animal rescue group, A Home 4 Spot, which would screen any potential puppy adopters. The screening would include home visits. A Home 4 Spot’s adoption fee averages between $200 to $400 a pet.
Prince and Princess Pet Boutique filed a temporary restraining order Friday to stop the adoption raffle and is suing the Animal Foundation and Clark County.
Hafter’s office said he was expected to post the bond about 10:15 a.m. Wednesday.
A hearing on the lawsuit is set for next week.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-1039.