A man who pleaded guilty in 2006 to 55 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty pleaded no contest in state court today to felony animal cruelty.
James Montgomery, 68, faces a maximum five-year prison term at sentencing in July for first-degree animal cruelty. He will also be prohibited from possessing or owning any pet animal for five years. The charge stems from the discovery last May 21 of a malnourished puppy in a garbage bin outside Montgomery’s Kahaluu home.
Honolulu police said officers found the puppy along with a dead dog in the bin after receiving a report of someone throwing away live dogs. They then entered Montgomery’s Mahakea Road home with officials from the Hawaiian Human Society and seized another 33 live dogs.
Montgomery is charged with second-degree animal cruelty involving the 33 dogs, but the prosecutor has indicated that he will drop the charge after a state judge ruled that the seizure was done improperly. The judge ruled that police used evidence they obtained from entering Montgomery’s home without permission to secure the search warrant they used for the seizure. Police didn’t need a search warrant for the garbage bin. Montgomery’s daughter directed the officers to it, opened it and allowed them to recover the puppy from it.
Second-degree animal cruelty is a misdemeanor that becomes a felony when 10 or more animals are involved.
The Humane Society says all of the dogs, including the one found in the garbage bin, have been adopted. The adoptions were made possible when Montgomery relinquished ownership of the dogs on Aug. 5. A spokeswoman said by then the Humane Society had spent thousands of dollars to care for the animals. Montgomery cannot be held responsible for the cost without being convicted of the second-degree animal cruelty charge.
The Humane Society spent more than $260,000 caring for 64 dogs from the time they seized the animals from Montgomery’s home in January 2005 to when Montgomery pleaded guilty 12 months later to 55 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.
A state judge granted Montgomery’s request to defer his guilty pleas. The judge also fined Montgomery $5,500, ordered him to pay $3,025 but did not order him to repay the Humane Society for the care of the animals. The judge even ordered the Humane Society to return the dogs to Montgomery to sell or otherwise find them new homes. The court dismissed all charges against Montgomery in 2008 after he proved that he completed all of the terms and conditions he was ordered to perform.