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Teen guilty of animal abuse for beating dog

December 30, 2009|By BRIDGET DiCOSMO

HAGERSTOWN -- A 17-year-old boy on Wednesday was found guilty of animal abuse for beating his dog with closed fists.

Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell, sitting in juvenile court, heard testimony from two witnesses before ruling the teenager's actions had crossed the line between disciplining the dog and beating it.

A neighbor testified that she had seen the teenager playing basketball with friends on Sept. 13, and noticed the pit bull he had tied to a piece of playground equipment near George Street in Hagerstown.

Someone let the dog loose and the youth began striking the animal with closed fists, striking it about the head and face at least eight times, she testified.

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During cross-examination, defense attorney Michael Wilson asked if the woman had been able to see what the respondent was doing because his back had been turned to her.

She testified that she couldn't see his face, but she had a clear look at his hands as he struck the dog.

A friend of the teenager for the defense, saying he had been at the park when the incident occurred, said the teenager had been disciplining the dog for aggressive behavior.

Wilson argued the respondent's actions were meant to correct the animal and were not abusive in nature.

"The dog was aggressive because someone had moved closer to him," Wilson said.

The teenager's actions crossed the line because he used a closed fist and struck the animal multiple times, Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Steven Kessel argued.

"The dog was simply running around and barking," Kessel said.

McDowell said he found the testimony of the state's witness credible, and he did not believe the friend of the respondent's had witnessed the incident.

The nature of the "attack" rose to the level of animal abuse, McDowell said.

McDowell delayed disposition in the case and set a hearing to decide sentencing for Jan. 13 at 2 p.m.

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