- Associated Press - Friday, May 20, 2016

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - An Oregon district attorney took the unusual step of issuing a Twitter response after public concern about the sentence handed down to a man who beat a dog named Earl.

Zachary Ralston, 24, of Cottage Grove pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of aggravated animal abuse and drug possession. He got 30 days in jail for beating the dog and 10 days for possessing heroin and methamphetamine, The Register-Guard reported (https://is.gd/ACsWJd ).

Criticism of the sentence prompted Lane County District Attorney Patty Perlow to respond. She said the punishment was correct given the sentencing guidelines for animal abuse and Ralston’s lack of criminal history.

“I’m as unhappy as you that animals are valued so little in our criminal justice system,” Perlow said in her statement, released via Twitter.

“This used to be the kind of sentence imposed for assaulting children, and outraged citizens changed that,” Perlow said. “While I am certainly an advocate for strengthening animal abuse and cruelty laws that will have a strong deterrent effect, it is an issue in which we all need to be involved, and not just within our local community.”

A mall security guard called police April 25 to report that a man was choking, kicking, punching and throwing a dog. The injured animal was found struggling to breathe and with an abnormally low heart rate.

The terrier-type dog believed to be about 18 months old was taken to the Emergency Veterinary Hospital in Springfield, where he was treated for a traumatic brain injury and other health issues.

The dog was later placed with a foster family.

“Earl is recovering very well,” Perlow said.

Ralston told police he had been watching the dog for a friend.

That friend, according to jail records, was arrested on theft charges a few days after the attack.

Authorities later posted a legal advertisement giving the man three weeks to claim Earl or forfeit ownership, opening up the possibility of adoption.

A court hearing on what happens if the owner doesn’t come forward has been scheduled for June 7.

___

Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com


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