PLATTSBURGH — A Plattsburgh man pleaded guilty Thursday in Plattsburgh City Court to five counts of animal abandonment in a case that drew widespread local outrage.
Michael Staley, 36, had originally pleaded not guilty to 24 counts of animal abandonment at his arraignment in August.
Staley has admitted that he staged a burglary at Northern Puppies, a Plattsburgh pet shop owned by his wife, Tammy.
He said he took the 24 puppies inside the store and left them in the woods around Clinton County.
Numerous area residents and police officers spread out around the area to try to find the puppies once word spread about what had happened, with some searches organized through Facebook.
Nineteen of the puppies were found and have since been adopted.
“This plea is appropriate because it exposes the defendant to the maximum sentence allowed under New York law,” said Clinton County Assistant District Attorney Jason Marx.
Each of the five misdemeanor counts is punishable by up to one year in jail, Marx said.
“However, regardless of the number of misdemeanor convictions, the state requires the defendant’s release after two years.”
Mr. Staley entered his plea with his attorney, Allan Cruikshank, Marx said.
City Court Judge Mark Rogers presided.
“The plea spares this community the costs and delay associated with a prolonged trial and immediately places admissions to the defendant’s criminal conduct on the public record,” Marx said.
On Nov. 7, Mrs. Staley pleaded guilty to five counts of animal cruelty stemming from an unannounced inspection of the Plattsburgh Plaza store, at which Plattsburgh City Police and state inspectors found a dead kitten and several others in poor health.
Mr. Staley’s sentencing is scheduled for about 8:30 a.m. Jan. 23, and Mrs. Staley is set to be sentenced on Jan. 17.
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