GREENFIELD — A Greenfield man pleaded guilty this week to animal cruelty – a charge rarely seen in Hancock County – after he sold a 3-day-old puppy to a boy for $150.
The boy’s mother brought the dog to Greenfield-Hancock County Animal Management the day after Jason Daves, 22, sold it to her son, according to court documents.
It is illegal to sell an animal before it is weaned, and selling a dog from a residence is in violation of a city ordinance.
Daves was charged with neglect of a vertebrate animal, which falls under the animal cruelty statute, and animal management took possession of the mother dog and all five puppies.
Daves and his mother told police they were caring for the pit bull mother and her newborn puppies for a woman who is in jail.
An animal management officer visited Daves’ mother days before the charges were filed after receiving a complaint that Daves and his mother were selling the puppies before they were weaned.
Daves’ mother told the officer the allegations weren’t true, that she was an animal lover and knew not to separate animals from their mother at such a young age.
The woman whose son bought a puppy came to animal management the following day.
Daves pleaded guilty Monday to the Class A misdemeanor charge and was sentenced to 80 hours community service, prosecutors said.
The puppies and mother have been checked out by a vet and are all healthy and doing well, animal management director Jeff Leffel said.
The smallest of the four puppies still with the mother weighed about a pound. The puppy that had been sold weighed just half that amount, Leffel said.
“The pup that we had was only 8 ounces, and that was with one of my staff members bottle-feeding it,” he said. “That puppy was basically doomed. It would have died.”
Animal cruelty cases are rarely prosecuted in Hancock County. Reports show that aside from one case filed in 2011 and one in 2010, no animal cruelty cases have been filed locally since 2007.
It isn’t because animal cruelty and neglect don’t happen; it’s more likely because they are crimes that are underreported, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tami Napier said.
Prosecuting them is also difficult because animals can’t speak for themselves about abuse, she said.
That’s why animal cruelty complaints require a witness who is willing to be identified, Leffel added. In the case of feuding neighbors, a fear of retaliation sometimes makes witnesses reluctant to come forward.
“Without a witness, we don’t have a case,” he said. “The dog can’t tell us. If you feel strongly enough about it to make a phone call, feel strongly enough about it to stand up in a courtroom.”
Animal cruelty cases can be charged as either a Class A misdemeanor or Class D felony, depending on the harm to the animal and whether the animal was harmed with the intent to terrorize or threaten another person. A criminal record of animal abuse or neglect can also elevate the misdemeanor to a felony.
The last case prosecuted locally was in August 2011, when a passer-by reported seeing a Greenfield man punch and choke his dog. Police would later arrest Chad Parsons, who was 32 at the time. Parsons told the passer-by his pit bull “doesn’t listen” after the passer-by yelled at him to stop hitting the dog, according to court documents.
Parsons was charged with animal cruelty as a Class A misdemeanor, but Parsons died before the case concluded.
In August 2010, another Greenfield man was charged with a felony after killing his dog. It was the first animal cruelty case filed in three years.
Robert Kite, then 55, hit the golden retriever in the head with a hammer and killed it, prosecutors said. Kite reportedly told police the dog had bitten him, but there was no medical evidence to corroborate his story.
Kite was convicted and sentenced to six months of probation.