WARREN - Family members of a man accused of leaving his puppy without food or water so long that the puppy nearly died said the man himself was starving.
Tyree D. Kyle, 21, of 1566 Niles Road, pleaded not guilty to a charge of animal cruelty, a second-degree misdemeanor, Friday in Warren Municipal Court as protesters packed the courtroom. Kyle, on the initial complaint, was charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor, a point of outrage for protesters.
Court officials said it was likely the mistake was overlooked on the report.
Jennifer Bird of Furkid Rescue in Pittsburgh talks about Bubba's condition.
Kyle, who is facing a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $750 fine, posted the $365 bail set by Municipal Court Judge Terry Ivanchek, who stipulated that Kyle is not allowed to own any pets.
He is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing Aug. 25, and activists said they would drum up more support for that hearing.
The 25 activists wore "Justice for Bubba" T-shirts that bore a photo of the 6 -to 10-month old pit bull that Animal Control officers rescued Monday from Kyle's former home. They said Bubba was locked in a room covered in feces and urine and was without water, food or fresh air.
Bubba, a 6- to 10-month-old pit bull who was rescued Monday after being found starving in a locked room, is seen with animal rights protesters on Friday in front of Warren Municipal Court. Photo by Adam Ferrise
Marty Conklin, a rescue volunteer for the Trumbull County Dog Pound who helped organize the protest, said of Kyle, "He's clueless. I feel sorry for him. I don't think he wants to be bad, but he's just in a culture where he doesn't know any better.
''I'm not angry with him, I'm angry with the environment that causes this to happen," Conklin said.
Warren Animal Control Officer Jeff Onatz said court bailiffs went to the house at 2274 North Feederle Drive S.E. on Monday because Kyle was being evicted. They found Bubba. Onatz called it the worst case of animal cruelty he's seen in 28 years.
Jennifer Bird of FurKid Rescue in Pittsburgh is taking care of Bubba. She took him to the protest Friday, where he quietly let his supporters pet him. She said Bubba gained six pounds since Monday, up to 20 pounds from 14 when he was found. He should weigh between 30 and 40 pounds, she said.
She said he may never walk normally because his growth plates closed due to malnourishment and he is suffering from psychological ailments including fear of being left alone.
"I am so angry at him," Bird said of Kyle. "I just want him to confess to what he did."
Kyle's family members who went with him to court, however, said Kyle was himself starving and without a job. His uncle, James Blount, said Kyle took the dog in and fed him, but went to Atlanta to look for a job.
The people he went with forced him out of the car and he had to hitchhike back to Warren.
"He wants the dog," Blount said. "He's cried about it every night since it happened."
Kyle refused to talk to reporters after court.
The protesters held signs with Bubba's picture on it. They waited for Kyle to arrive at court, but he showed up late and exited the building out a different door. The protesters stood quietly on the sidewalk as family members, who stoically drove away, walked past.
Protesters said they want Ohio laws changed to make cruelty to animals a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
Jeane Beach of Fowler said she became aware of animal rights issues after a raid by the Animal Welfare League last year.
"It just breaks my heart that someone would do this to such a sweet animal," she said.
Matt and Corey McCreary of Boardman said they own a rescue dog, Duke, who was hit by a car in Mansfield and abandoned by his owner.
"It's just disgusting," Cory McCreary said. "How could you know you were in the same house everyday with a dog who was starving?"
FurKid Rescue set up a Facebook page to keep people updated with Bubba's condition and to organize future protests. A contribution page was set up on chipin.com, which has raised $1,500 and drew donors from as far away as Tokyo and Australia.
Bird said she was glad to hear that Kyle was being charged with a harsher crime than an fourth-degree misdemeanor, which the original complaint stated. She and others passed out fliers with the law the says the charge is a second-degree misdemeanor.
"I'm elated," she said.