Probation in dog cruelty conviction

Odenton man stabbed animal after it bit child

must pay vet costs

March 23, 2002|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An Odenton contractor who slit his dog's throat and repeatedly stabbed the animal because it bit his daughter was placed on three years' probation Friday and ordered to pay the veterinary bills.

"I'm not convinced that you need to go to jail to be punished," Judge Clayton Greene Jr. told John Zeits Jr., 24, in an Anne Arundel County Circuit courtroom.

But, Greene, a judge in the Court of Special Appeals who returned to complete this case, barred Zeits from owning pets other than goldfish, ordered counseling and insisted that Zeits pay about $1,740 for care of the animal.

Zeits said he knew he should be punished but needed to support his wife and two young children.

Zeits, described by his lawyer as an animal-lover, was convicted in December of animal cruelty, which carries up to 90 days in jail.

A jury found him not guilty of the more serious animal-mutilation charge, punishable by up to three years in prison, though Greene said he believed Zeits was guilty of both charges.

The mixed-breed dog, named Max, bit Zeits' 16-month-old daughter in the cheek in October 2000, and Zeits had testified that he wanted the dog dead.

But the wounded dog, which Zeits had abandoned for dead near a construction site, crept away and was found by a passer-by who rushed the bleeding animal to a veterinarian.

Michael J. Dunty, assistant state's attorney, sought jail time, but said he was glad Zeits was ordered into counseling.

Tahira S. Thomas, animal control administrator, said she was disappointed by a lack of jail time for what she called one of the worst cases of animal cruelty the shelter has seen.

"It was such a heinous act," she said. "We are glad we stepped in. We hope there is a message in all of this: People cannot respond this way."

For Max, there's a happy ending. The dog was adopted in December.

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