Michael Staley, left, leaving Plattsburgh City Court with his attorney, Allan Cruikshank Jan. 23 after avoiding jail time in his puppy abandonment case. Staley was sentenced to time served for the two days he spent in jail after his arrest, and two concurrent three year terms of probation along with a fine and several conditions.
On consecutive days last week, Plattsburgh City Court judge Mark Rogers handed out nearly identical sentences to Michael and Tammy Staley for their roles in the Northern Puppies abuse and abandonment cases from last summer.
First, Michael Staley avoided jail time in his puppy abandonment case, over the impassioned pleas of Assistant District Attorney Jason Marx.
Staley was sentenced Thursday, Jan. 23 to time served, in the amount of the two days he had spent in jail after his initial arrest, and two consecutive three year terms of probation. Additional conditions included that Staley not be allowed to own any pets other than the two Rottweiler dogs and six Chinchillas that the family currently owns, and that the two Rottweilers be spay or neutered within the next 30 days. A fine of $500 was also imposed, which Staley can pay back at the rate of $50 per month, along with restitution of $2,782.65.
Prior to imposing the sentence, Marx addressed the court with his request that Staley be given the maximum sentence possible, which would include jail time, and to exclude the Staleys from owning any pets. Marx pointed out that Staley’s stated reason for abandoning the 24 puppies was the burden that caring for them was putting on his family, while at the same time the family willingly cared for eight of their own animals.
“He paints himself as a victim of circumstances,” said Marx. “This is not a person who takes responsibility for his actions…I am stating emphatically that this is no reason for them to have pets. They are not responsible pet owners.”
The pre-sentence investigation indicated that Staley should not be allowed to own animals. That section was amended by Rogers to indicate that the Staleys were allowed to keep the animals they currently own.
Prior to sentencing Staley, Rogers stated that it was “remarkable” that this case had generated the amount of interest that it has generated. He referenced the fact that other such cases, including more serious cases, did not generate jail time. He did however admonish Staley by saying: “Mr. Staley was not put in any position. He put himself in whatever situation he is currently in.”
On Nov. 21, Staley had accepted a plea agreement offered by District Attorney Andrew Wylie, which called for Staley to plead guilty to five misdemeanor counts of abandonment, with sentencing to be left to Rogers. The plea was in satisfaction of his arrest on 24 counts of abandonment of an animal which resulted from a late summer incident where Staley staged a burglary at his wife’s pet store — Northern Puppies —and took the 24 puppies in the store, and abandoned them in rural location throughout Clinton County.
After his arrest, Staley ultimately admitted to taking the 24 puppies and abandoning them, according to City Police. Five of those puppies were never located.
As he had just 24 hours earlier, Rogers ignored the pleas of Marx, and sentenced Tammy Staley to probation and a fine, avoiding any jail time for the former pet store owner.
Tammy Staley, who stood before Judge Rogers for sentencing Jan. 24 after having pled guilty to five counts of cruelty to an animal for her role in the maltreatment and deaths of numerous animals at her pet store, Northern Puppies, this past summer, was sentenced to two consecutive terms of three years probation, restitution of $1,300, and a fine of $500.
Her husband, Michael Staley, was sentenced to probation and a fine a day earlier for his role in the saga, where he staged a burglary at the pet store, removed 24 puppies, and dumped the puppies in rural locations across western Clinton County. All but five of the puppies were located and turned over the Plattsburgh City Police. The five remaining puppies are feared by local authorities to have perished.
In a tense courtroom, Marx pled emphatically for jail time for Staley. Stating that this, Tammy Staley’s case, was a completely different case than her husband’s, Marx asked the court, as he had asked the previous day, for jail time for Staley.
“The conditions were inhumane, and in the instances of several of the animals, deadly,” Marx argued.
In a terse exchange, Staley’s lawyer Frank Zappala, stated:
“I will not even dignify the statements of the prosecution with a response,” raising a question from Judge Rogers as to whether he had just heard correctly what Zappala had said.
Zappala went on to argue that the court should sentence consistent with the sentence handed down the previous day.
Judge Rogers, citing a pre-sentence investigation which included a prior stint of “unsteady performance” on probation by Staley, stated:
“It was a bad thing, a very bad thing, and I’m not sure that Ms. Staley gets it either.”
Rogers went on to sentence Staley to two consecutive terms of three years’ probation, plus a fine of $500, and restitution in the amount of $1,300, avoiding any jail time which was possible according to sentencing guidelines. The fine and restitution can be paid back by Staley at a rate of $50 per month.
As he had the previous day, Marx implored the court to specify that the Staley’s were not allowed by the sentence to breed the two unaltered Rottweiler dogs that they currently own as pets.
“Should Ms. Staley be found to be breeding animals, would she be in violation of her probation?” Marx asked Rogers at the conclusion of the case.
“That’s what I said,” answered Rogers.
Tammy and Michael Staley were later seen leaving Plattsburgh city court hand in hand.