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Former owner of Bugz pleads guilty to animal cruelty
A York-area man caught on video repeatedly punching, whipping and hitting his pit bull Bugz pleaded guilty in York County Court Tuesday to animal cruelty.
"I had lost my temper," Luis Junior Cruz-Padro told presiding Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner. "I tied him up and I struck him."
Cruz-Padro, 28, said he became angry when Bugz attacked his infant.
His defense attorney, David Ehrhard, said the baby wasn't hurt.
"The dog was adjusting strangely at the time to a puppy that had just come into the house and to (the child)," he said. "He basically snapped in the child's face."
Cruz-Padro waived his right to a preliminary hearing and entered a guilty plea at the first opportunity, according to Erhard, "because he did it and he wants to take responsibility."
The attorney said he doesn't believe his client has any pets at this point.
"He feels miserable. People will not believe it, but he really did love that dog," Erhard said, adding Cruz-Padro is in therapy for anger-management issues.
The background: The 2½-minute video was shot Dec. 12 by one of the defendant's former neighbors on East South Street in York City.
The graphic, difficult-to-watch video went viral on social media Dec. 14, prompting dozens of people to alert the York County SPCA, executive director Melissa Smith has said. In it, Cruz-Padro ties Bugz to a pole and repeatedly hits, punches and whips the dog.
Smith has called the beating "deliberate, repeated and prolonged physical abuse."
When an SPCA official arrived at Cruz-Padro's city home that day, a mob of incensed animal lovers had formed and a private animal rescue had already taken custody of Bugz, Smith has said.
That rescue turned over Bugz to the SPCA, and Cruz-Padro's then-fiancee, now wife, also turned over an 8- to 10-week old pit bull pup that was sired by Bugz, according to Smith.
Bugz suffered a broken rib and bruising to his side from the beating, and he has fully recovered, Smith said. Both he and the puppy, now named Angel, have been adopted by loving families, Smith has said.
Sentencing: Judge Bortner set Cruz-Padro's sentencing for 1:30 p.m. May 31.
Bortner explained to the defendant that in an open plea, it's up to the judge to determine the appropriate punishment. Cruz-Padro pleaded guilty to first-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty.
"I don't know what the sentence will be myself," the judge said.
He ordered a pre-sentence investigation be completed to help him determine Cruz-Padro's punishment.
Erhard said state guidelines call for a sentence of anywhere between probation and six months in county prison. The attorney confirmed he intends to ask for a probationary sentence.
Threats, attack: Despite what Erhard called Cruz-Padro's genuine remorse and regret, people have neither forgotten nor forgiven him, the attorney said.
"He and his family have received a lot of threats," Erhard said, including death threats. "This whole incident has loomed over his family."
In the past several months, Cruz-Padro was physically attacked in his neighborhood by strangers who apparently recognized him, and he ended up with a chipped tooth, Erhard said. Cruz-Padro didn't go to police because every time his name gets in the newspaper, the threats resume, his attorney said.
Erhard said his client simply wants to receive his punishment and put the incident behind him.
"He's very ashamed of it," Erhard said of the video, and "short of jumping off the courthouse roof" there's nothing else Cruz-Padro can do to atone for his actions.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.