WADSWORTH— A local woman will spend one day in jail after she was sentenced Wednesday for abandoning her 15-year-old pug at a local Walmart in November.
Rita L. Swartz, 52, of the 100 block of Terraceview Avenue, pleaded guilty in December to one misdemeanor count of abandoning animals after she left the elderly dog at the big box store located at 222 Smokerise Drive on Nov. 29.
Wadsworth Municipal Court Judge Stephen B. Mcllvaine sentenced Swartz to 90 days in jail, with 89 days suspended. She was also placed on five years of nonreporting probation
“This was an act of love, not hate,” Swartz said during the sentencing.
Swartz said she tried to release the dog into the care of local animal shelters, but was told the dog was not a good candidate because she is deaf and blind.
“It breaks my heart that I did this,” Swartz said.
Mcllvaine said he understood that the issue seemed to be financial, as Swartz works only nine hours a week and could not afford the fees associated with turning the dog over to a shelter.
Despite her attempts to find a new home for the dog, Mcllvaine said Swartz did not spend a significant amount of time pursuing alternative options for the dog before abandoning it.
Mcllvaine said the pug, now known as Agnes, was wrapped in a coat and left in a box in the parking lot.
Swartz maintained that she did not leave the Walmart parking lot until she noticed that the dog had been spotted.
Prosecuting attorney Jeff Holland said during the sentencing that he had a petition signed by more than 1,000 individuals that would like “a good strong sentence” for Swartz.
Holland said he does not believe the interest in the case is a circumstance of people valuing animals more than people, but is because animals are not able to defend themselves, and when an animal gets justice, it attracts attention.
Holland said that while he does understand there are mitigating circumstances in the case, “some time in jail (would) send a good message …”
Mcllvaine said Swartz inherited the dog from her late uncle, and it had medical conditions at that time.
Another dog named River, belonging to a family member of Swartz, was determined to be healthy and was cared for with fresh food and water when the court made a surprise visit to Swartz’s residence, Mcllvaine said.
Mcllvaine said River may stay in the household, but Swartz will not be permitted to own another dog for the next five years.
Dawn Samples, who adopted Agnes, also spoke during the sentencing.
Samples said that when she first adopted Agnes, it was a pretty sad situation.
“For the first couple of days, she just sat in her bed and cried unless one of us was touching her,” Samples said.
The dog has been in Samples’ home for 76 days as of Wednesday, and Agnes, who suffers from chronic medical problems related to her hearing and sight, is now adjusted to her new environment, she said.
Lt. Dave Dorland said previously that police were contacted by Walmart shoppers that discovered the pug near the clothing donation box in the store’s parking lot.
The Medina County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was then contacted by police, who then took custody of the dog.
The SPCA’S original post highlighting Agnes’ plight was shared more than 4,000 times and received more than 1,400 comments on Facebook. It was through that post that police were able to find and charge Swartz.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, the second-degree misdemeanor carries a possible penalty of up to 90 days in jail and up to a $750 fine.