NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A woman who admitted abandoning a dog later found at the bottom of a trash chute in a case that became a cause celebre and led to tougher animal cruelty laws was sentenced to probation Thursday by a judge who urged the animal’s supporters to “put things in perspective.”
The Essex County prosecutor’s office had sought to have Kisha Curtis given the maximum sentence of 18 months in prison after she pleaded guilty to fourth-degree animal cruelty last month just before her trial was to begin. She got 18 months of probation instead.
Curtis, 29, admitted that she left the pit bull tied to a railing outside her Newark apartment building in 2011 when she left town for a week. The emaciated dog was found in a plastic bag at the bottom of the building’s trash chute, unable to stand and weighing about 20 pounds, or about 30 pounds below normal weight.
He was nursed back to health at a veterinary hospital and is now happy and healthy, his new owners wrote in a letter read to the court Thursday.
Curtis didn’t admit throwing the dog down the trash chute.
Judge Joseph Cassini III said Curtis was “tried in the court of public opinion” and “portrayed as a monster” in the weeks and months after her arrest. The prosecutor’s office, the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the facility that treated the dog — known as Patrick because he was discovered around St. Patrick’s Day — received thousands of letters, faxes and emails from people around the world offering support or advice. Some even urged Cassini to give Curtis the death penalty.
Speaking to a courtroom filled with green-shirted supporters of Patrick, Cassini said he is a dog lover and owns two German shepherds but contrasted Curtis’ case with one scheduled in his courtroom later Thursday in which a man stands accused of killing a Newark police officer.