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A Weigelstown-area man has pleaded guilty to animal cruelty for injuring a 3-month-old puppy.

Joseph Anthony Sullivan, 34, of the 2700 block of Prospect Avenue in Dover Township, appeared in York County Court on Monday, July 8, where he pleaded guilty to the second-degree misdemeanor version of cruelty to animals, according to court records.

As part of his negotiated plea agreement, a second-degree felony charge of aggravated cruelty to animals causing serious bodily injury or death was dropped.

Sullivan was sentenced to two years of probation and 25 hours of community service, and he is forbidden from owning pets during his probationary term, according to defense attorney Jeff Marshall.

The puppy recovered "fairly quickly," Marshall told The York Dispatch, and it went to a different home.

Sullivan never intended to hurt the puppy, according to Marshall. Rather, he pulled too hard on its leash and collar.

"He acknowledged pulling on the dog's collar excessively," the attorney said. "He said the dog was under the bed, trying to chew on some electrical wires. ... He was very remorseful."

State police filed charges after being called to Patton Veterinary Hospital on West Broadway in Red Lion about 12:30 p.m. April 12, 2018, by staff there.

A staff member reported that Sullivan was at the hospital causing a disturbance and that his girlfriend appeared terrified of him, court documents allege.

What vet said: A staff veterinarian told police he examined and treated the 3-month-old puppy, named Peppa, which weighed 5 pounds, and that the dog appeared to have been choked, state police said.

The puppy's neck was pink, it had bruises under both eyes and its eyeballs had significant hemorrhaging caused by pressure on its neck and airway, according to court documents. The veterinarian also reported that the puppy's airway was compromised to the point that it put the animal's life at risk, documents state.

Peppa was frail and trembling, police noted, and was owned at the time by Sullivan's girlfriend, Tabitha Penrode.

Penrode told police that Sullivan tried calling her and texting her about a dozen times while she was at the gym that day, saying something was wrong with Peppa, documents state.

Penrode said when she got home, Peppa was silent and nervous. She said she was afraid Sullivan hurt the puppy, according to court documents.

At the veterinary hospital, Sullivan suggested Peppa might have gotten hurt playing with a toy, police said.

But later, when he was being interviewed at the state police barracks in Loganville, Sullivan admitted to yanking on Peppa's collar, causing the puppy to hit its head on a bedpost, according to court documents.

'Reckless conduct': Marshall said because Sullivan didn't intentionally hurt the dog, the felony cruelty charge wasn't appropriate.

The misdemeanor version of the charge deals with reckless conduct, which can be unintentional, as it was here, Marshall said.

Sullivan continues to receive treatment for autism and Asperger's syndrome, "which contributed to the bad judgment" he showed in yanking Peppa's collar, Marshall said.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

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