An Albemarle County man will now be spending some time in jail for leaving his dogs out in the cold. Eric Johnson, 48, of Covesville was found guilty Wednesday morning of three misdemeanors - two for animal neglect and one for animal cruelty.
The judge sentenced Johnson to 12 months with 11 months suspended. He will serve one month of active jail time. He was also fined $500 and is required to pay the SPCA restitution over $1,500.
Johnson's three dogs were seized from his property on Murrays Lane on the afternoon of January 7 - at a time when temperatures were below freezing. The dogs were left without food, and the only bowl of water was frozen solid.
Police brought the dogs to the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA. Veterinarian Kristen Scheller says the punishment fits the crime.
"I do think that in general, owning a companion animal is a privilege - it's not a right - and he has lost that privilege and I'm glad that the court came to that decision,” said Scheller.
Scheller was one of the seven witnesses who testified during the almost two-hour trial. As an addition to the sentence, the judge said Johnson can't ever own a pet again.
The judge argued that jail time is appropriate in this case because of a prior animal cruelty conviction in Nelson County back in 2007. Johnson and his attorney do still have the option to appeal the judge's ruling.
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