Assistant District Attorney defends dog fighting plea, says mistake was made on allowing him to own dogs again

Posted at 8:26 PM, Apr 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-19 10:12:46-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Animal advocates are outraged after a man who pleaded guilty to animal cruelty can own an animal again. Now, the Assistant District Attorney handling animal cases is speaking out on the controversial plea deal. She believes stricter laws are needed to fight animal cruelty cases.

In 2014, a home on Pewitt Road was raided and 38 dogs were removed, or rescued, from a dog fighting operation.

Michael Davis was charged with 27 counts of animal fighting and 3 misdemeanors. Then, he got a deal. He pleaded guilty to drug trafficking offenses connected to the dog fighting ring in addition to the 3 animal cruelty misdemeanors.

Laney Cuthberston said, "He was punished he did go to jail, it's not like everything was dismissed."

Davis spent 1 year behind bars and will spend 7 on probation.

There's no stipulation in the plea deal stating he can't own or possess animals again.

Cuthbertson said, "That is a mistake on our office it should have been included in our plea agreement, that he no longer own or possess animals and that he go on the animal abuse registry."

When the felonies were dropped, animal advocates were outraged.

Cuthbertson said, "I understand their anger, I understand their frustration, I share it. I have animals of my own, they are my family, they are my children. I understand how everybody feels about that and I will work tirelessly to show everyone that if they decide to break the law and abuse animals, they will go to jail."

In the Davis case, Cuthbertson said it was easier to focus on the drug charges because they have stricter punishments compared to animal cruelty charges.

Cuthbertson said, "Even when we can prove them, the punishment is very very minimal, if someone has no record, there's a presumption of probation."

Cuthbertson started her new job at the District Attorney's office last month.

In a short time she's realized lenient animal cruelty laws send a bad message to animal abusers.

Cuthbertson said, "We need to be committed to showing these people that they can't do this in our city."

State Representative Bruce Griffey introduced a bill that would slap down stricter penalties for animal cruelty cases.

It didn't pass, but he says he will bring it up again next year.