Cd’A man jailed for animal cruelty

COEUR d’ALENE — A local man will spend 30 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to leaving five pets in a hot car, killing four of the animals.

Gavin E. Hughes, 28, of Coeur d’Alene, pleaded guilty in October to five counts of carrying animals in a cruel manner, all misdemeanors.

Judge Mayli Walsh sentenced Hughes on Thursday to 180 days in jail for each of the five counts, to be served consecutively. Walsh suspended four of the five sentences and imposed 30 days of actual jail time for the remaining count. She also placed Hughes on supervised probation for two years.

“If you violate probation by having animals in your care again, you will have to spend all of that time in county jail,” Walsh told Hughes.

That means Hughes faces two-and-a-half years behind bars if he violates the terms of his probation.

The crimes occurred May 16, when Hughes reportedly brought an adult cat, two kittens and two puppies to his workplace and left them inside his vehicle while he worked. The animals were in crates, which were covered with a fleece blanket, according to court records.

The high temperature that day was about 76 degrees. Police estimate temperature inside the vehicle was as high as 120 degrees.

When Hughes checked on the animals a few hours later, he later told police, the cats and one of the puppies had died. The other puppy, a 10-week-old golden retriever, was alive but in distress.

Hughes reportedly called his girlfriend, Coeur d’Alene resident Samantha Ohara, and returned to work. Ohara soon came to collect the surviving puppy, which Hughes later surrendered to Companions Animal Center.

Police noted that Ohara had pleaded guilty in March to 10 counts of cruelty to animals and one count of injury to a child, all misdemeanors, after law enforcement discovered she was keeping dozens of animals in unsanitary conditions in her apartment.

Prosecutors dismissed 10 additional counts of cruelty to animals as part of a plea agreement. Ohara spent two days in jail for the offenses and was placed on supervised probation for two years.

Hughes told a coworker about the dead animals, according to court records. The coworker informed police, who contacted Hughes at his residence and cited him with five counts of animal cruelty and five counts of carrying animals in a cruel manner.

As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed the animal cruelty charges and Hughes pleaded guilty to the remaining charges.

In court Thursday, prosecutors said Hughes showed “appalling” indifference to the suffering the animals endured because of his actions.

“The defendant disposed of these dead animals in a dumpster,” prosecuting attorney Matthew Simmons said. “The dogs were able to be retrieved but the cats were not because they were covered in trash.”

Hughes’ attorney said he didn’t intend to harm the animals and instead “froze” when he found four of them dead and one dying.

“I was in a panic when the officers showed up,” Hughes told the court. “I don’t want to harm animals. I want to keep them. I am devastated that this happened. I am deeply sorry. I accept any and all punishment.”

Walsh rejected this reasoning.

“I think the public would be outraged knowing these animals died in the manner that they did,” Walsh said before handing down the sentence. “Your behavior afterward is not acceptable. I don’t accept that you were in a panic. You went back to work.”

In Idaho, cruelty to animals is generally a misdemeanor, but some forms of abuse become a felony if the defendant has previous animal abuse convictions.