May 31—CADILLAC — A Buckley man pleaded guilty to felony attempted animal abuse after admitting to a judge he shot his neighbor’s dog, dismembered the animal and hid the remains in his barn.
“The dog was attacking my dog and I shot it,” Thomas Middaugh said during a plea hearing Friday. “I hid it in my barn.”
Middaugh, 43, told 28th Circuit Court Judge Jason Elmore he shot Bear, a Labrador retriever, for fighting with his dog, a Rottweiler/pit bull mixed breed that was tied up on a chain in his yard.
Bear’s owner, Samantha Olds, previously said Bear was a family pet, a recognized fixture in the community for greeting people at local parties and not known to be aggressive.
Middaugh was originally charged with third-degree killing and torturing an animal, a four-year felony, court records show, after Michigan State Police investigated a complaint called in by the Oldses.
Wexford County Prosecutor Corey Wiggins on Friday dismissed the original charge in exchange for Middaugh’s guilty plea to the lesser count of attempted killing and torturing an animal.
MSP officers in February responded to the animal abuse complaint after the Oldses reported their black Labrador retriever was missing and believed harmed or killed.
Olds previously said she told law enforcement Bear went missing Feb. 3 after wandering away from their West County Line Road property.
She and her husband, Justin Olds, and a few friends went searching for Bear, followed the dog’s tracks, found blood at a neighboring property and across the road, and called police, Olds said.
MSP Lt. Derrick Carroll previously said that, when troopers went to Middaugh’s home Feb. 4, they found Bear’s remains wrapped in a tarp inside a box hidden in Middaugh’s barn.
The charge of attempted killing and torturing an animal is punishable by up to two years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled, court records show.
Olds said Tuesday she wished the more than 30 handwritten “character” letters friends submitted to the court about Bear, could have been read into the record.
“They cannot be accounted for in the case, as by court standards Bear is seen as a piece of property rather than a living thing with character,” Olds said.
She said the letters give credence to Bear’s gentle nature, and how unlikely was any altercation with another dog.
“There needs to be a legal movement made on a higher level so if something like this happens to someone else, actual consequences will occur,” Olds said.