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Dog owner avoids jail time for animal cruelty

Posted: April 24, 2013 - 2:37pm  |  Updated: April 25, 2013 - 12:09am
Robert R. Petersen, 54, appears in Juneau District Court on Wednesday for a change of plea hearing. Petersen pleaded guilty to one count of cruelty to animals and will serve 80 hours of community service.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Robert R. Petersen, 54, appears in Juneau District Court on Wednesday for a change of plea hearing. Petersen pleaded guilty to one count of cruelty to animals and will serve 80 hours of community service.

A 54-year-old Juneau man pleaded guilty Wednesday to animal cruelty for injuring his dog with what authorities have called “continued improper use” of an electronic shock collar.

In accordance with a plea deal, Juneau District Court Judge Thomas Nave allowed Robert R. Petersen to do 80 hours of community work service in lieu of jail time for the misdemeanor offense. Nave imposed 120 days in prison with 110 days suspended, which would have been 10 days to serve.

Assistant City Attorney August Petropulos said the dog — a beagle named Ares — was found with about eight wounds on its neck, two of which were open, red and swollen. The wounds were from the prongs of a shock collar which Petersen admitted had been in the “on” position for the past two and a half years and was only removed to change the batteries. Petersen kept an electronic fence — intended for outdoor space — inside his home to keep Ares out of certain areas, according to an affidavit.

Authorities were alerted to the case when the dog was found in the Montana Creek Road area last summer and turned into the Gastineau Humane Society. Animal Control officers used a microchip that was in the dog to identify Petersen as the owner. They said Petersen adopted Ares in May of 2008 with his wife, and he continued to care for it when they divorced two years ago and she moved out of state.

During the court hearing Wednesday, Petersen’s attorney John Leque said that this usage of a shock collar was “inappropriate,” but that Petersen is not an “evil man out there abusing animals.” Leque said his client “wasn’t paying attention to the situation” and that the dog had needs that his client couldn’t deal with, such as misbehaving and eating things in the house, which at one point made the dog an unhealthy weight.

When given a chance to speak in court Wednesday, Peterson apologized to the judge, saying, “I’m just sorry it happened.”

Petersen and Leque declined to comment further after the hearing.

In addition to the community work service and suspended jail time, the judge required Petersen to pay about $2,000 in restitution and a $1,000 fine with $250 suspended. Petersen was also placed on probation for two years and was forbidden from owning dogs during that period of time.

Petropulos said the beagle is currently doing better and is living with another family.

Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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