An alleged dog hoarder whose trial was set to start Tuesday showed up in court to plead no contest to felony animal cruelty and being a person prohibited from having a firearm.
Gary Dean Perkins, 53, had been charged in November 2013 after Nevada County Sheriff’s Animal Control officers seized more than 30 dogs from a parcel on the 16000 block of Bear Trap Springs Road, where Perkins reportedly was squatting.
“After spending substantial resources, we were quite surprised to have Mr. Perkins show up with a new lawyer on the morning of trial, and plead guilty as charged,” said Nevada County Deputy District Attorney Jim Phillips.
During a preliminary hearing into the evidence against Perkins, Animal Control officers had testified that many of the dogs had clearly visible spines and ribs. On the initial visit, officers found five empty bags of dog food, with no receptacles for feeding and no accessible water.
Five dead dogs and five live dogs were found on a subsequent visit, and necropsies reportedly revealed the dead animals died of starvation.
“It was the worst case of animal neglect I ever recall seeing,” Phillips said, saying photos of the dead dogs were too gruesome to print.
The worst-case scenario for Perkins would be a state prison sentence of three years and eight months, Phillips said. Perkins is set for sentencing on Oct. 20.
“He deserves to be locked up for a while,” Phillips said, adding that he would seek input from Animal Control and from Sammie’s Friends, the nonprofit animal shelter that took the surviving dogs in, before deciding what kind of sentence he would ask for.
Six of Perkins’ dogs — which had remained at the shelter after Perkins contested their adoption and asked to get them back — can now be rehomed after he signed a release Tuesday.
Sammie’s Friends has been caring for the six dogs since Nov. 23, 2013, at a cost of $12 a day each, with the total cost of treatment estimated to be in excess of $8,000.
Phillips, earlier in the case, had filed a forfeiture motion based on what he called a fairly new section of the California penal code that allows the government to seek seizure and forfeiture of dogs and cats under some circumstances, based on an unacceptable level of care.
That notion was denied by Judge Candace Heidelberger, who ruled that a seizure of the animals could be done more efficiently as an administrative action rather than a criminal motion.
The news Tuesday that Perkins had relinquished all claim to the canines was hailed by Sammie’s Friends founder Cheryl Wicks.
“I think it’s great news,” she said. “I wish he had made this decision a long time ago, they’ve been hanging out in limbo for nine months. But I can now put them up for adoption, and they will be easy to adopt.”
Wicks estimated the total cost to all the involved rescue groups for the treatment and care of Perkins’ dogs at close to $20,000.
“I hope that the judge orders restitution, because I think it should be on the record,” she said, adding that she doubted Perkins would ever be able to pay the money back.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.