By Joshua Rhett Miller
New Jersey woman admitted drowning a 10-week-old puppy over concerns that her adopted pooch needed expensive veterinary care, prosecutors said.
Tonya Fea, 49, of Jefferson Township, pleaded guilty Thursday to animal cruelty in the April 2019 drowning of a female golden retriever that was found submerged in a cage weighted down by a glass vase at a pond in West Milford, according to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
As part of a plea deal, prosecutors are recommending Fea serve 180 days in jail followed by five years of probation. She will also be required to do 100 days of community service and won’t be allowed to own a dog again.
Fea said during the Thursday hearing that she “panicked” while deciding to “dispose of” the sick dog, NorthJersey.com reported.
“You knew the ground was frozen so burying it was very difficult, so you decided to submerge [the dog] in the pond?” Fea’s attorney asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
The dog was discovered “dead and ice cold” on April 30, 2019, according to a Facebook post by Last Resort Animal Rescue. The organization named the puppy Jenny while announcing a $12,000 reward for the person responsible for her death.
“It appears to be an approximately 10-week-old female golden retriever puppy who was killed/drowned and submerged into the pond in the crate,” the post read. “Weighted down with the heavy crystal vase perhaps, or maybe struck with it.”
Fea sobbed throughout the 20-minute virtual hearing, during which she admitted the dog was breathing “but just laying there” when she checked on her the morning of the drowning.
Hours later, Fea said, she didn’t see if the dog had a pulse or was breathing before driving to the pond, NorthJersey.com reported.
“I panicked,” Fea told a judge when asked why she put the puppy in the water.
“What was the reason for the panic?” Judge Marilyn Clark continued. “You say you panicked, but you had a vet appointment that morning and you chose not to take the dog to the vet, you chose to take the dog in a cage and submerge it in a lake. So what were you panicking about?”
Fea balked at the question, but her attorney said she made a vet appointment for the dog after adopting it days earlier. She ultimately decided not to go over concerns of high vet bills, attorney Richard Baldi said.
Fea had previously told cops the dog was dead when she put into the pond, court records show.
“I guess I could have checked more,” Fea said Thursday.
A necropsy found that the dog died of asphyxiation from water, records cited by NorthJersey.com show.
Fea is set to be sentenced on Oct. 5.
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