The owner of a hunting dog training company in Hancock, Iowa — where dozens of dogs were neglected, died or went missing — was sentenced Wednesday to 30 days in jail, a work-release program and probation.
Dustin Young, 35, pleaded guilty in November to animal neglect charges. Of the 36 counts he faced, all but 12 were dismissed.
In court, owners of several of the dogs Young had agreed to train and care for voiced disappointment at the sentence.
Young faced a maximum of about three years in jail and thousands of dollars in fines. Pottawattamie County Assistant Attorney Jennifer Benson had requested that Young receive the maximum sentence.
Judge Scott Strait noted the victims’ anguish in his sentencing.
“This situation is tragic. This tragedy could have been avoided,” Strait said, noting that Young abandoned the dogs, some of which were found by investigators to be covered in filth, starving and sick.
One dog was found dead in a freezer at Young’s home. The problems at his kennelwere discovered in May.
“If I were to place you in custody for close to three years, it could prevent (financial) recovery to the victims,” Strait said.
Young was sentenced to two years in jail with all but 30 days suspended. He was placed on probation for two years. If Young violates the terms of his probation, he could serve two years in jail.
He is forbidden to train, care for or board animals while on probation. He was ordered to pay about $4,800 in restitution to the victims.
After sentencing, Young and his attorney, William Bracker, exited the courtroom while the dog owners in attendance grew angry.
“Can I trade the money for more jail time? I don’t need the money,” one said to Strait as he left the room.
Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber spoke with reporters afterward. He said animal neglect and abuse laws in Iowa — and the scope of the case itself — were frustrating for the victims and the prosecution.
“We don’t have a lot of tools in the toolbox for cases like this,” he said, noting that the penalties for animal cruelty are typically fines and rarely involve a jail term.
Wilber said he recently spoke with an Iowa state senator about possibly introducing a bill to toughen punishments for such crimes.