An Ypsilanti couple will undergo official sentencing on Dec. 20 at the 14A-2 District Court in Ypsilanti after pleading guilty to one count of misdemeanor animal abandonment or cruelty.
Nandella Penn and Toreek Belton, both Ypsilanti residents, were reported to the Humane Society of Huron Valley Cruelty Investigators in March after a bystander witnessed Penn repeatedly punching a puppy with a closed fist and tossing the puppy onto a lawn.
The puppy struggled to walk after the incident, HSHV said.
At the sentencing, the couple is expected to be placed on probation during which they cannot house, possess, or own any pets, HSHV said.
The cruelty investigators at HSHV reviewed surveillance camera footage to confirm the witness’s account and uncovered footage showing additional incidents. These incidents include a defendant throwing a puppy to the ground and hitting a puppy dozens of times as it walked up stairs, resulting in the puppy walking up the stairs in a sideways manner, HSHV said.
A search warrant was secured by HSHV, and three dogs were removed from the home at the end of March, including two puppies and a young dog belonging to one of the defendant’s sibling, HSHV said.
Penn and Belton were ordered by the court to forfeit ownership of the two puppies and pay $4,000 in restitution as a part of their plea deal. The two puppies are in permanent custody of HSHV, and the other dog was ordered to be returned to its owner, HSHV said.
“It’s important to note that this type of repeated violent abuse by caregivers doesn’t just create physical injuries,” Tanya Hilgendorf, HSHV’s president and CEO, said in a written statement. “Just like with children, this kind of trauma can have a lasting impact. Dogs are resilient and so forgiving, but abuse—particularly during critical developmental stages—can be quite detrimental, causing ongoing fear and anxiety, and an inability to feel safe even in a loving home. That is why both expert medical and behavioral treatment—and patient adopters—for victims of cruelty are so critical.”
Placements for the puppies to receive care for their special needs and behavior problems have been found, HSHV said.
“This horrible case is a reminder that animals are completely dependent on humans for protection,” Hilgendorf said in a written statement. “If no one had reported this cruel situation, those innocent puppies would continue to be hurt and there would surely be other victims to follow. They need us to be their voice. We are so grateful to those caring and brave community members who called us and helped with this case.”
If abuse or neglect in Washtenaw County is suspected, it can be reported to the HSHV through their website or by calling them at 734-661-3512. Those outside of Washtenaw County who suspect neglect or abuse can contact their local law enforcement or animal control.