‘They took my dogs, then they charged me’ — Retired Utah preacher gets her Yorkies back, resolves her case

Fellow dog lover steps in and pays the $4,000 “restitution” tab.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Rev. Nurjhan Govan at her Taylorsville home on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. The retired pastor has four of her dogs back after they were removed by Salt Lake County Animal Services.

After nearly two years, the case against the Rev. Nurjhan Govan for allegedly mistreating her beloved Yorkies was mostly resolved this week.

Govan, the retired powerhouse pastor of the historic Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church, Salt Lake City’s oldest Black church, pleaded no contest to four misdemeanor charges for “no current rabies vaccinations,” according to her attorney, Navid Farzan, with the Salt Lake Legal Defender Association.

Farzan was able to get 37 other charges dismissed, including animal cruelty, failure to license and a host of other allegations against the pastor, whose 10 canine pets were confiscated by Salt Lake County Animal Services in February 2020.

Animal Services planned to bill her for $17,000 for housing, vaccinations, licensing and care of the dogs, Farzan said, but he was able to negotiate that down to $4,000 “for restitution.”

Rudy Bautista, a former candidate for Utah attorney general, has offered to pick up that lower tab, Farzan said. “He is a criminal defense attorney, a veteran — and a dog lover as well.”

Govan, who retired from the church in 2018 and then spent many months living out of her car because landlords refused to allow her pack of dogs, was grateful for the donation but questions why the fee was imposed at all.

“They took my dogs,” she said Tuesday, “then they charged me.”

Last December, Govan had a joyful reunion with four of her pets, and now she spends many happy days with her four remaining yappers in a five-bedroom home in Taylorsville.

“They know it’s their house — each of them has his or her own bedroom,” Govan said with a grin in her voice. “However, they all sleep with me.”

The furry friends can run in and out of the fenced backyard, she said, through their doggy door.

Part of the legal agreement was a “plea in abeyance,” Govan’s lawyer said, so if the pastor complies with the Animal Services’ requirement that she complete a 12-hour animal care course within a year and the restitution is covered, a judge will wipe out the four cases.

The dog lover is fully prepared to do that, she says. She’s just glad to have her Yorkies home.