CHARDON - It’s a first for Geauga County.
A Chesterland man has been sentenced for felony animal cruelty under what is known as "Goddard’s Law".
"The heartbreak of losing our beloved Zoey is something I don't think we’ll ever get over," Peggy Yagour said from a podium in Geauga County Common Pleas Court.
That’s where her neighbor, 68-year-old Dennis Dudich was sentenced to a 5th degree animal cruelty felony.
Dudich pled no contest to shooting the Yagour's 3-year-old bulldog Zoey in back of their Chesterland house in January.
"We saw her laying there, covered in blood. She couldn't move and her legs were behind her. It severed her spinal cord," the Yagours told Channel 3 News in January.
Dudich is the first in Geauga county to be sentenced under an animal cruelty law passed last September known as Goddard's Law.
"He thought it was a feral animal. He is remorseful, contrite and apologetic," said Dudich’s attorney, who refused an interview with Channel 3 News.
Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz countered when he addressed Judge Forrest Burt saying, "He shot a fully grown dog with a scoped rifle 2 times. I’m pretty sure you know what you are shooting when you do that," said Flaiz.
The Yagours had to put Zoey to sleep the day after she was shot.
"There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not on my patio and hear that gunshot and that scream. And I think, what did she ever do to anybody?”
To that, Dudcich told Judge Burt, not the Yagours, "I am truly sorry for everything," said Dudich.
Judge Burt sentenced Dudich to 60 days in county jail and 5 years probation.
"Whether you think it was a cat, a skunk, a piece of newspaper or the neighbor's bulldog you just don't do that. It's inexcusable," said Judge Burt.
Under Goddard's Law, Dudich could have been sentenced to 6 months in prison.
His attorney is expected to appeal the sentence, saying Goddard’s law is unclear.
"I believe the law is very clear," said Amy Beichler. Beichler is the Executive Director of Public Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS.
"I believe the law is very clear. He is guilty of causing serious pain and suffering to this dog. Other people have received one year in prison, six months in prison, for doing the same kind of act. Yes. Goddard's Law applies here," said Beichler.
Dudich’s attorney called Goddard’s Law "counter intuitive".
“If you needlessly kill an animal it’s a misdemeanor. If you cause serious harm to a companion animal it’s a felony. Seems counter intuitive.”
He is expected to appeal.
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