Ann Arbor, MI (November 16, 2021) — Witnessed beating, kicking and dragging puppies, Ypsilanti residents Nandella Penn and Toreek Belton were charged with a misdemeanor on October 20, avoiding a trial and accepting a plea agreement from the prosecutor’s office. They both pled to one count of animal abandonment/cruelty to one animal.

On March 29, a bystander witnessed Penn repeatedly punching a puppy using a closed fist, then toss him onto a lawn, after which he had difficulty walking and moving around. “Horrified,” the person contacted the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV) Cruelty Investigators for help.

Video surveillance footage confirmed the witness’s account, and additional footage from the property showed further incidents—including one with a defendant throwing a puppy to the ground; another with a defendant hitting a puppy dozens of times apparently to get him to climb stairs, each hit launching the pup up a stair. Eventually, the puppy struggled to walk up the stairs in a sideways manner, on his own.

HSHV Cruelty Investigators secured a search warrant and removed two puppies and a young dog from the home.

The Humane Society of Huron Valley has been caring for the three dogs including housing, feeding, medical and behavioral support since the end of March. Defendants agreed to pay a total of $4,000 in restitution as part of the plea agreement—a fraction of the actual cost of boarding and medical treatment for the three dogs. Penn and Belton were ordered by the court to forfeit ownership of the two younger dogs to HSHV permanently; the third dog was ordered to be returned to the alleged original owner, one of the defendant’s siblings.

“It’s important to note that this type of repeated violent abuse by caregivers doesn’t just create physical injuries,” says Hilgendorf, HSHV’s President and CEO. “Just like with children, this kind of trauma can have a lasting impact. Dogs are resilient and so forgiving, but abuse—particularly during critical developmental stages—can be quite detrimental, causing ongoing fear and anxiety, and an inability to feel safe even in a loving home. That is why both expert medical and behavioral treatment—and patient adopters—for victims of cruelty are so critical.”

Loving placements that account for the dogs’ special needs and ongoing behavior treatment have been found.

Official sentencing for Penn and Belton is scheduled for Monday, December 20 at 9 a.m. in the 14A-2 District Court in Ypsilanti, presided by the Honorable Judge Kirk Tabbey. Once officially sentenced, they will be on probation, during which they may not house, possess or own any animals.

“This horrible case is a reminder that animals are completely dependent on humans for protection.” says Tanya Hilgendorf, HSHV’s President and CEO. “If no one had reported this cruel situation, those innocent puppies would continue to be hurt and there would surely be other victims to follow. They need us to be their voice. We are so grateful to those caring and brave community members who called us and helped with this case.”

Those who suspect animal abuse or neglect in Washtenaw County are reminded they can make a report on HSHV’s website or call 734-661-3512.  Those outside of Washtenaw County should call their local animal control or law enforcement agency.