A Hartford man pleaded no contest to three counts of animal cruelty Wednesday afternoon, nearly five months after he and his wife were arrested.
Thomas Staggs Jr., 59, entered the plea after waiving his right to an attorney. Frederick Meier had withdrawn as Staggs's counsel on Oct. 6 citing a potential conflict of interest.
Staggs and his wife, Rhonda, 57, were arrested at their home at 303 E. Grand Ave. in Hartford after multiple complaints had been made about animals being a nuisance and the home serving as an "unauthorized kennel." Hartford city ordinance sets a limit on the number of dogs allowed at a home before it is considered a kennel.
The animals reportedly were left in sewage-filled cages, covered with feces and urine. One dog had to be destroyed.
Judge Lee Fowler, having determined that Staggs understood his rights and that Staggs had made the decision based on the fact that he does not qualify for state-appointed counsel, approved the decision.
Meier had written a nolo contendere on Staggs's behalf prior to his departure as Staggs's counsel.
The agreement has Staggs pleading no contest to three misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, which are punishable by up to one year of jail time and a fine of $2,500 each.
Staggs requested the minimum amount of jail time and the minimum fine associated with the crime, as well as concurrent sentences.
He agreed to have no animals in his possession while on probation and has agreed to give up ownership of the 17 dogs — including 14 wolfdogs — that were removed from custody on May 26 so that they may be adopted.
Fowler told Staggs that Judge Jeffry Larson reserves the right to accept or decline the terms of the plea agreement and may choose to sentence him to the maximum jail time or give him consecutive sentences.
Sentencing has been set for 10 a.m. Dec. 3 with Judge Larson in Lyon County District Court.