BRANCH COUNTY — The case against Penny Williams, 53, of Clio, drew notoriety and attention when she was charged with animal cruelty to 19 puppies kept in her car on July 17, 2021, in Quincy.
Her case ended with a whimper Monday in Branch County Circuit Court.
Temperatures were in the upper 70s that day — the dogs, some in crates, were panting with no water in her car. A waitress at the Stables saw them in a locked PT Cruiser parked behind the business.
A mail carrier from the adjacent post office said windows in the back on both sides were down about an inch, but the car was hot.
Branch County sheriff's deputy Dakota Fox did not arrive for half an hour because of short staffing and other calls.
Jan Nageldinger of Branch County Humane Society found no food or water with the dogs. She thought deputies should seize them.
Williams came out and opened the car before they broke the window. In a plea agreement, Williams pleaded no contest to attempted animal cruelty, a two-year felony.
Her attorney, Ryan Bucklin said, "There were no dogs that died. There were no injuries that were reported to the dogs. And my client was actually allowed to leave the scene with those dogs."
Prosecutor Zack Stempien said there were problems with the case.
"Important pieces of evidence were missing," explaining that no one took the interior temperature in the car. "There wasn't a medical check of the dogs after they were seized for a short time ... Obviously, those would have been difficult issues at trial to explain to the jury."
Circuit Judge Bill O'Grady put Williams on probation for a year. He suspended a sentence of 90 days in jail with credit for one day behind bars. If she completes probation, Williams' record will reduce the charge to a misdemeanor.
Both attorneys agreed Williams could continue possessing animals during her probation. She can continue transporting rescue animals "subject to reasonable search to ensure the proper welfare of the animals."
"This circumstance was part of what she enjoys doing, and that is trying to find good homes for dogs," Bucklin said.
Stempien said he trusts that the Department of Corrections "will have an eye on this individual."
"If there are more complaints that come forward, they will be able to do their job to protect the animals," he said.
O'Grady said, "We all care for the animals. Many times there's more outcry for an animal than there is of harm to a child in this world. But that's a different discussion in a different debate for a different day."
Stempien said, "I know people in the animal rights and animal care industry certainly want there to be more than the court can do. Even with a felony charge, "the sentencing guidelines and other sentencing considerations a court is bound to follow don't match up with crime. We're the ones looking like we're soft on this. In reality, it is the legislation that's creating the situation."
This article originally appeared on Coldwater Daily Reporter: Charges in puppy cruelty case result in probation sentence