CUMBERLAND — A Cumberland man was sentenced Tuesday in Allegany County Circuit Court to 90 days in jail, with 45 days suspended, for letting nine dogs starve to death in an empty house on McGill Drive in August.
Circuit Judge Gary G. Leasure agreed to allow Christopher Preston, 29, to serve the 45 days on home confinement, which means Preston might be able to save his job as a correctional officer. Leasure also ordered Preston to serve two years of probation after his confinement.
The sentence was crafted after considering the sentencing recommendations of a presentencing investigation. The investigation was conducted by the Maryland Department of Parole and Probation. Because Preston had no prior criminal record, the recommendation was from probation to one month’s incarceration.
Preston was convicted Dec. 9 of 10 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, of which the judge decided earlier five counts would serve as the basis for the sentence.
Defense attorney Stephen R. Tully made saving Preston’s job the focus of much of his argument at sentencing. “Any incarceration will cost him the job that he has,” Tully said. Even home confinement might not save the job, Tully said, but it gives Preston a chance to remain employed.
Before issuing his sentence, Leasure asked about restitution to the Allegany County Animal Shelter for the costs related to the investigation and operation at McGill Drive to rescue the three remaining dogs.
“The animal shelter has never reached out to the state requesting restitution in this matter,” or providing details of the costs of the operation, Assistant State’s Attorney Sam Lane told the judge. Leasure did order Preston to pay restitution for the care of the surviving dogs while on probation. Preston will not be allowed to have pets immediately and during the duration of his probation, Leasure said.
The maximum sentence in the case could have been 15 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
On Aug. 14, the nine dead dogs were discovered in his house at 14707 McGill Drive in the Bel Air subdivision along with three live dogs that were rushed to emergency veterinary care. The rescued dogs were suffering from dehydration, starvation and anemia due to flea infestation.
Animal control officers found the animals after repeated calls from neighbors.
Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.