GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Thousands of people across the community, state, and country say the story of Buddy the dog has had a profound impact on them. Now, they're uniting to support his owners and speak out against animal cruelty.
More than 50 demonstrators lined up outside the U.S. Courthouse in Grand Junction Thursday afternoon as accused dog dragger Steven Romero sat inside for a hearing. Between the signs, drivers honking their horns and pet lovers standing with their dogs next to them outside the entrance, a lot of people had something to say about Buddy's death.
"We want to show people that dogs have rights," says Tami Duran, a supporter of Buddy who demonstrated outside the courthouse.
"I wanted to be here because I think it's important the public knows we will not tolerate a crime like this in our area," says Debbie Faulkner, a supporter of Buddy and employee at an animal rescue organization in Delta.
Dozens of Buddy supporters packed the benches inside the courthouse during Romero's hearing. Others stood outside for nearly two hours hoping to get their message across.
"This guy should be prosecuted to the fullest," says Duran.
Thousands more have been taking to the cyber streets for Buddy. In just a week, a facebook group called "Demand Justice for Buddy" has grown to more than 80,000 members.
A Denver-based company called Family Plaque is donating a memorial plaque for Buddy's grave site and a Denver rescue for dogs has a blue heeler they want to donate to Buddy's owners.
"It makes you feel good about humanity," says Faulkner. "That in spite of people like Mr. Romero, there are also people out there that really care."
Buddy's owners, Sacha and Joe Leber, say they've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and that it's given them something smile about during this difficult time.
"I figured [Buddy's death] would go unnoticed and it hasn't," says Joe Leber. "There's a lot of people out there and we appreciate it a bunch."
"From the bottom of my heart, thank you and I love you guys," says Sacha Leber. "Thank you guys so much."
National animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) issued a statement Thursday calling on the U.S. Attorney's Office to "vigorously prosecute" Romero.