A woman who was convicted in September of animal cruelty will not get her dog back, a Leavenworth County District Judge ruled Friday.
District Judge Gunnar Sundby granted a prosecution motion seeking to terminate Sarah Hoppins’ property rights to a dog named Coco. The dog will be turned over to the Leavenworth County Humane Society.
Hoppins, 34, was convicted in September of three misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. The charges were filed after the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation in June. Neighbors reportedly had expressed concern about three dogs being left without food or water. When deputies arrived, they found three dogs outside the Tonganoxie area residence, two of which were chained up. There was no food or water available for the animals and the outside air temperature was 98 degrees with a heat index of 105 degrees, according to County Attorney Todd Thompson.
The three dogs were removed from the property and taken to Leavenworth Animal Control. The dogs reportedly were found to be underweight and infected with parasites.
Hoppins, who was sentenced in October to five days in jail and a year of probation, voluntarily terminated her property rights to two of the dogs, according to court records.
And Friday’s hearing focused on the third dog.
Two witnesses including Hoppins testified during the hearing.
The first witness, Bruce Bettis, was called to testify by Assistant County Attorney Sherri Becker. Bettis is a professional dog trainer who performed a behavioral assessment of Coco.
He said the dog exhibited overwhelming fear of people. He testified that he suspected the dog’s behavior would worsen if it was returned to its old environment.
The final witness was Hoppins, who was called to testify by her attorney, Benjamin Casad.
“If my dog was brought in here right now, she would race to get to me,” Hoppins said.
Hoppins, who now lives in De Soto, acknowledged that during May and June she “slacked off” in terms of caring for her dogs as much as she should. But she said events in her life had turned it upside down. She said her life now is much more stable.
Sundby said he believes Hoppins cares for the dog and wants it to be happy. But the judge said he finds that Hoppins lacks the ability to provide basic care for the animal.
And the judge said returning the dog to Hoppins could reverse the progress that’s been seen in the animal’s health and behavior.