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Kent man pleads not guilty in starving death of puppy

Andre O. Johnson pleads not guilty to charges of animal cruelty during his arraignment Oct. 14 at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.   - Charles Cortes, Kent Reporter
Andre O. Johnson pleads not guilty to charges of animal cruelty during his arraignment Oct. 14 at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.
— image credit: Charles Cortes, Kent Reporter

A 20-year-old Kent man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge of first-degree animal cruelty for reportedly starving a puppy to death last year in his abandoned apartment.

Andre O. Johnson, entered his plea at King County Superior Court at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. Johnson, who was not in custody, was booked and released within an hour after his plea, according to county jail records. He has not served anytime in jail because of the alleged incident.

Johnson is scheduled to return to court Oct. 26 when a trial date could be set or attorneys from either side could ask for more time to prepare the case.

Johnson showed up alone in court and did not have an attorney. The county's public defender office appointed an attorney to represent him.

Prosecutors charged Johnson Sept. 29 based on a probable cause document filed Sept. 9 by Sgt. David Morris, an animal-control officer with Regional Animal Services of King County.

Johnson reportedly failed to provide adequate food and water to Bones, a pit bull puppy, between Nov. 12, 2009 and Dec. 10, 2009, according to charging papers.

Managers of the Waterford on the Lakes Apartments in Kent reported to animal control Dec. 10 that they discovered a dead pit bull puppy in the bedroom closet of a unit during an abandoned property inspection.

Morris said he arrived to find the puppy with its ribs, spine and hip bones readily seen. A veterinarian performed a necropsy that concluded the puppy died of starvation and dehydration.

Johnson told Morris in a phone interview that a former roommate had bought the puppy. Johnson assumed ownership when the roommate abandoned the dog in September 2009. Johnson said he played with the dog and bought it food.

Johnson moved into the Waterford apartments in September 2009. During a maintenance inspection on Nov. 15, apartment personnel found the puppy in a feces and urine littered bathroom and notified Johnson in writing to clean up after his pet.

Johnson said he last saw the dog Dec. 5 and thought "the dog was getting skinny." He determined the dog had worms through Internet research, but did not take the puppy to a veterinarian.

Maintenance personnel changed the locks on the apartment Dec. 10 because Johnson had abandoned the unit. Morris also wrote that Johnson did not return further requests to contact him.

"Johnson, as owner of Bones, was clearly criminally negligent when he did not provide adequate food or water and as a result the dog suffered substantial and unjustifiable physical pain and died of starvation and dehydration," Morris stated in the report.

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