A Gig Harbor man accused of wrapping duct tape around a dog’s snout to keep the animal from barking pleaded guilty Wednesday to a gross misdemeanor charge of second-degree animal cruelty.
Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff sentenced Paul G. Sweeney, 57, to perform 80 hours of community service and forbade him from ever again owning dogs.
Sweeney had been charged with felony first-degree animal cruelty, but Pierce County prosecutors agreed to allow him to plead guilty to the reduced charge after neighbors came forward to vouch for his character.
The reduction will allow Sweeney to keep his truck-driving job, but he was forced to find another home for an elderly pooch not connected to the crime. Sweeney said outside court that that dog, named “Hooch,” has been diagnosed with cancer and might have to be put down if the new owner is unable to properly care for it.
Sweeney was arrested in June after a passerby spotted a Doberman pinscher named “Daisy” in Sweeney’s backyard. The Doberman had duct tape wrapped around its muzzle and front legs, court records show. That person called authorities, and Sweeney was arrested and charged.
He admitted in court Wednesday to taping the dog’s muzzle temporarily to keep it from barking. He said efforts to use proper muzzles on Daisy failed because the dog managed to tear them off and chew them up.
Sweeney said he never meant to hurt the dog, which belonged to his son. Daisy has since been given to another family.
“At no time did I ever do it to cause harm,” he said.
Deputy prosecutor Patrick Hammond had recommended a sentence of 30 days in jail.
“This isn’t the most egregious animal cruelty case I’ve ever seen, but it is serious,” Hammond told Chushcoff.
Sweeney’s attorney, Michael Carpenter, asked that his client be sentenced to credit for time served in jail plus some community-service hours. Sweeney spent one day incarcerated after his arrest before being released on his own recognizance.
“He should not have done it,” Carpenter said. “I know he’s sorry for what he did.”
Chushcoff said putting Sweeney in jail seemed extreme but that he wanted him to serve some punishment, so the judge imposed the 80 hours of community service and put Sweeney on two years probation.