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Mich. man gets 30 days for neighbor dog's death

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Gary Pinchoff, left, is sentenced for his animal cruelty conviction. His lawyer, William Godfroy, is with him.

THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY
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MONROE -- Friends and family of the Frenchtown Township man charged with stuffing needles into hot dogs that were swallowed by a neighbor's dog were disappointed with his sentence of 30 days in jail, with credit for one day already served.

Gary Pinchoff, 64, who pleaded no contest to a reduced felony charge of animal cruelty, was sentenced Thursday afternoon by Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Michael W. LaBeau. He was taken into custody immediately after sentencing for transport to the Monroe County jail.

"This was a terrible thing you did," Judge LaBeau told Pinchoff. "Obviously, you exercised very poor judgment. There are other ways to take care of this problem. I can't imagine how upset your neighbor was. ... This was something that was bad, and I can't just sweep it under the rug."

Pinchoff's sentence also includes two years' probation, during which he will not be allowed to own or live with animals. He was ordered to pay $798 in fines and $1,039 restitution to the neighbor for veterinary costs. He also will be required to undergo counseling and assessment and treatment through AniCare, a program developed by the Animals and Society Institute, Ann Arbor, which treats perpetrators of violence against animals.

"Given that Mr. Pinchoff claims that he intended the needle-laden meat for other animals, namely wildlife, rather than a family pet, this counseling seems particularly appropriate," wrote Kenneth Shapiro, the executive director of the institute.

Prosecutor William Paul Nichols had asked the judge to consider prison time for Pinchoff, since Pinchoff did not plead guilty to the original animal cruelty felony charge, which carried a maximum four-year prison term.

The sentencing guidelines for the lesser charge of harming animals was up to six months in jail. The probation department recommended a one-month sentence.

The charges against Pinchoff stem from a November incident in which authorities say he laced hot dogs with dozens of needles that then were swallowed by his neighbor's 8-year-old black Labrador retriever, Jinx. Authorities said the dog swallowed at least 40 needles and was euthanized because of the severity of her injuries.

Pinchoff and Andy Wann are longtime neighbors. Authorities said Pinchoff claimed he put the meat outside for invasive wildlife after the meat he was putting in humane traps was being taken without an animal being captured. His lawyer, William Godfroy of Monroe, said his client didn't realize it was his neighbor's dog getting into his yard.

"I made a mistake and wasn't using good judgment," Pinchoff told the judge. "I ask that you forgive me and what I did. It was never my intention to do any harm to this dog."

Pinchoff's son, Grant, of Erie, Mich., said his father is an animal lover who fed the squirrels and would never harm the wildlife he caught with traps in his yard, instead releasing the animals in the country. Grant Pinchoff's fiancee, Whitney Miles, also of Erie, said her future father-in-law thought the needles would cut the animal's mouth and it would leave the yard.

Mr. Wann, who said he was not in court for the sentencing because of work obligations, said he was glad that Pinchoff received jail time. He said Pinchoff threw the needle-laced hot dogs in his yard. "I found them by my mailbox," Mr. Wann said. "He can stick to his story, but I know who the hot dogs were intended for. It still makes me very mad. My daughter still talks about and misses Jinx."

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com or 419-724-6066.

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