A 27-year-old Lakewood man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he left nine puppies to die in a wooded area on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Commissioner Meagan Foley released Christopher G. Merrick on his own recognizance following his arraignment in Pierce County Superior Court. Foley ordered Merrick not to own or care for animals while his case is pending. He is charged with two counts of first-degree animal cruelty, which is a felony.
Prosecutors say Merrick abandoned the puppies, some sick and malnourished, in September 2011. Merrick allegedly tried to take the puppies to the Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County but left with them after learning there would be fee to discard them, court records show.
Two people riding horses on the base later found the puppies and reported their discovery to authorities. A Lakewood animal control officer then contacted Merrick after receiving an anonymous complaint, court records show.
Merrick allegedly told investigators he left the puppies at the Humane Society but later changed his story, saying he’d given them to an associate he wouldn’t identify.adam.lynn@ thenewstribune.com