Kimberly Nizato, the former kennel assistant arrested in April 2010 for nearly starving her German Shepherd to death, was sentenced to a misdemeanor count of animal cruelty on Monday.
In June 2010, Nizato pleaded no contest to a felony animal cruelty charge. Yesterday, Norwalk Superior Court Judge Robert J. Higa reduced the charge to a misdemeanor and sentenced her to 30 days in county jail, three years’ probation, and restitution of $2,034 and court fees, according to the Orange County Register.
Nizato was also ordered to seek counseling and banned from owning a pet, reported the OC Weekly.
Nizato’s attorney, Andrew Stein, successfully persuaded Higa to reduce the felony charge. “I make no excuse for what my client did,” he told the judge. “But I believe this was a crime of omission, not commission.”
When animal control officers found the 3-year-old dog, who was later named Courage, chained to a tree last year, he weighed only 37 pounds – less than half the normal weight of a German Shepherd. Courage had eaten stones and dirt in his effort to survive.
Courage is now enjoying a happy, healthy life in Huntington Beach, Calif., with his new dog mom, Lisa Whiseant. The Orange County Register reports that Whiseant submitted an impact statement as evidence that was read aloud Monday by prosecutor Jennifer Bainbridge.
“Courage has moved on. He is a healthy, joyous, 92-pound dog that spends his days playing with toys, his Shepherd gal pal, and his wading pool,” Whiseant wrote. “He harbors no ill effects and is now in perfect health. His temperament is loving and forgiving. He is loved, adored, protected and thankfully will have a happy life after returning from the brink of death.”
The Orange County Register reported that the prosecutor was “noticeably upset” when she left the courtroom on Monday, but said that she respected the judge’s decision.
Nizato is scheduled to return to court on November 8 for a progress hearing. She did not surrender yesterday to begin serving her jail time. Instead, Higa ordered her to focus on paying her restitution.
Stein told the Orange County Register that the county jail time would serve as a wake-up call for his client. “I think it’s a good jolt,” he said. He added that it will never be known why she let her dog starve.
If you ever see any animal that you suspect is the victim of neglect or abuse, here’s what to do.
“No matter where you are – big city or small town – blow the whistle on animal abusers and hold your elected city leaders responsible for enforcing and enacting humane legislation,” Maria Dales, director of German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County (GSROC), an organization that helped save Courage, told i Love Dogs in February.
“Cruelty only survives in the darkness, so we all need to expose it to the light,” Dales said. “Contact your local lawmakers and demand stiff penalties for those who would abuse, neglect or abandon an animal.”
In February, Courage, Dales and his other rescuers received a BRAVO Award for bravery and outstanding community service in a ceremony held in Bellflower, Calif.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Sherri Regalbuto, Just dogs with Sherri