In Plattsburgh City Court Nov. 21, Michael Staley pled guilty to five counts of abandoning an animal, in a plea agreement worked out with the Clinton County District Attorney’s office.
“A sentence up to or including jail time is up to the court,” said Assistant District Attorney Jason Marx in court.
The plea brings to a close a saga which has gripped the North Country since summer. Michael Staley’s wife Tammy was arrested in July for 20 counts of animal cruelty, after her store, Northern Puppies, was inspected by officials from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Plattsburgh City Police. In the complaint, Agriculture and Markets claimed that they found a dead kitten, and that other kittens and two puppies were being housed in kennels which were too small. Sanitary and other issues were also noted in the complaint.
Tammy Staley pled not guilty in Plattsburgh City Court. At that time she was barred from selling any of the puppies she had at the store until her court case was adjudicated.
Then, on Aug. 4, Michael Staley staged a burglary at Northern Puppies, took 24 puppies from the store and systematically dumped them in wooded locations in the towns of Saranac, Dannemora and Peru.
Michael Staley was arrested by Plattsburgh City Police for 24 counts of Animal Abandonment, section 355A of the Agriculture and Markets Law.
“I’m mad at him, but I understand where he’s coming from,” Tammy Staley said later in an interview with the Burgh. “I think in my husband’s eyes, he sees me crying, he sees me depressed. He knows that we’re not taking in any money. He figures ‘no puppies, no problems.’”
The next morning area residents began contacting authorities with reports of found puppies. Over the next week, ad hoc groups of local citizens mobilized to search for the abandoned puppies in the areas where Staley told police he had dumped them. Nineteen puppies were recovered, and turned in to the city police. They have all since been adopted by local families. Five puppies were never located.
Both Staleys’ court cases ground through city court throughout the fall, until they were offered plea agreements by the Clinton County District Attorney’s office recently. Tammy Staley accepted a plea agreement Nov. 7, pleading guilty to five counts of cruelty to an animal, which is a misdemeanor. Michael Staley accepted the plea agreement today, and pled guilty to five misdemeanors as well.
Sentencing for both Staleys has been postponed pending a pre-sentencing investigation by the Clinton County Probation Department. Tammy Staley is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 17, and Michael Staley is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 24, both by Judge Mark Rogers.
A ‘Going Out Of Business Sale’ sign was briefly displayed on the Northern Puppies store in the Plattsburgh Plaza, but that sign has since been removed. A new sign naming the store “Critter Hut Pet Shop” has taken its place.