HAMILTON, Ohio -- A couple facing felony counts after their emaciated dog died last year have pleaded guilty to lesser counts.
Christopher Sears, 31, and Jessica North, 34, were indicted in November on a fifth-degree felony of cruelty to a companion animal.
Workers at Minnick’s Drive Thru reported finding the dog, a male pit bull between 9 and 12 years old, in late September. Dr. Sara Horton, owner of West Side Animal Clinic, said it was probably the worse case she'd seen: The dog, called Duke, was half of what he should weigh, and Horton estimated he had been that way for at least several months.
Duke couldn't recover and was euthanized in October.
North said she had taken in the dog a few months before he died. He was in the same condition when she started caring for him and she had hoped to help him recover, she said.
She said she was trying to feed Duke different kinds of soft food and even puppy formula to gain weight, but he kept throwing up. She said she knew he needed a vet's care, but didn't have any money.
"I knew he needed it, but I just didn't know what to do," North said.
She said the dog got out of an open basement door.
Sears and North were the first felony animal cruelty case in Butler County under the new stiffer law that went into effect in June, WCPO media partner the Journal-News reports.
Instead, each pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor. Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said the misdemeanor pleas were permitted because they met the legal specification of a misdemeanor.
"For this charge to rise to the level of a felony, there has to be a prior charge of abuse. There was some indication that was the case early on, but the evidence indicated there was not, so the charge is really a misdemeanor," Gmoser said.
Judge Noah Powers is scheduled to sentence Sears on Feb. 28 and North on Jan. 31, the Journal-News reports.