COEUR d'ALENE - A Coeur d'Alene man who seriously injured his ex-girlfriend's pet miniature schnauzer last summer will spend at least 30 days in jail.
Michael Dobler, 27, was sentenced by Judge Penny Friedlander on Monday in Kootenai County court on a charge of criminal misdemeanor animal cruelty.
Dobler entered an Alford plea last month, not admitting guilt, but agreeing that if the case were to go to trial, he could be convicted based on the state's evidence.
"I would hope that the sentence the judge gave him will prevent other people from harming defenseless animals, and reinforce why animal cruelty needs to be reported to law enforcement," said Jim Reierson, the Kootenai County deputy prosecuting attorney who handled the case.
Friedlander sentenced Dobler to two years of supervised misdemeanor probation and 180 days in jail with 120 days suspended. Dobler will spend 30 days behind bars beginning Dec. 16. Friedlander ordered an additional 30 days of jail time to be used at the discretion of the probation department. She could order Dobler to serve the entire sentence if he returns to court and a probation violation is proven.
Dobler was ordered to complete 80 hours of community service, undergo a full mental evaluation and complete any recommended treatment. He was also handed a $4,000 fine with $3,000 of it suspended.
The maximum punishment possible was six months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
The little dog at the center of the case is named Shaylee, a 3-year-old female mini-schnauzer that weighs about 13 pounds. Its owner, a Coeur d'Alene woman who was dating Dobler, had raised the dog from the time it was a pup.
Last summer, Dobler offered to walk the dog while its owner was at work and out running errands.
Dobler returned Shaylee on June 20 with a seemingly minor eye irritation that the owner thought may have been related to a recent grooming.
Within a week, Dobler took the dog out again. When he returned to the apartment with Shaylee, he was supposed to call the owner to let her know they were back. Dobler never called, so the woman went to her apartment where she encountered Dobler as he was attempting to leave her apartment after placing the animal on her bed. She found the animal in distress, with its little collar cinched tight around its neck. The animal was having trouble breathing, had blood on its belly and scraped paws and legs. It had defecated on the bed, and the owner saw a reddish tinge of blood on its other eye.
After Dobler left, the victim took the dog to the veterinarian, Dr. Annie Bowes of Emergency Pet Care on Seltice Way in Post Falls. Bowes testified at the sentencing.
The veterinarian examined the dog and took an ultrasound. She found the animal's spleen was injured and there were multiple abrasions on the dog's elbows, hind legs and paws.
"Her testimony was that it was not an accident, that it was consistent with violent, blunt force trauma," Reierson said.
The victim then reported the incident to police.
Reierson said he asked the veterinarian in court on Monday whether the injury to the animal's spleen could have been caused by someone kicking the little dog while it was on the ground.
"She said it's possible," Reierson said.
The veterinarian's opinion, he said, was that Shaylee's abrasions and the scrapes on its paws and the bony areas of its "elbows" and legs were consistent with the types of injuries seen when an animal has been dragged behind a vehicle.
Dobler testified on his own behalf. Reierson said Dobler claimed he didn't know how the dog's injuries occurred, but that he knew it "happened on his watch." Dobler never admitted to harming the dog.
"The judge seemed to be very troubled with what she heard when he was testifying," Reierson said.
The little dog was very bonded to its owner, he said.
It's not uncommon, Reierson said, for animal abuse to occur in domestic or dating violence situations.