LONG BRANCH, N.J. (CNN) — A man has been sentenced to a year in prison after being convicted of putting an 8-month-old puppy in a cage and leaving it along the waterside.
Aaron Davis, 36, of Long Branch, New Jersey, was sentenced on Friday after a court found him guilty in December of fourth-degree animal cruelty, according to a news release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.
A judge also ordered him to pay $731.46 in restitution and perform 156 hours of community service, and banned him from owning pets while on parole. It was not immediately known how long his parole would last.
Davis has denied that he abandoned the puppy, defense attorney Adamo Ferreira told CNN. Ferreira argued that the sentence was unnecessarily harsh and said Davis planned to appeal his sentence.
“The sentence was overkill,” Ferreira said. “There was no reason to sentence Mr. Davis to jail. It’s a fourth-degree offense. This was his first indictable conviction.”
In July 2018, a woman was walking her dog near the Sandy Hook Bay in Highlands, New Jersey, when she saw a small pit bull mix in a black wire cage on the water’s edge, the prosecutor’s office said.
The tide was rising and water had reached the cage, and the woman climbed over a barrier wall to rescue the dog, according to the news release. She then brought the dog, which she named “River,” to the police department, where officers contacted animal control.
The prosecutor’s office said that after an investigation, authorities determined Davis had taken the dog after an argument with his girlfriend and abandoned it by the water.
“Abusing defenseless animals is an intolerable act and even more despicable when the animal was abused in retaliation to ‘get back’ at its owner,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said in a statement. “Had this passerby not been at the exact right place at the exact right time, River would have drowned due to the rising tides.”
The 2018 incident outraged animal rights advocates in the months after, and eventually prompted a New Jersey state senator to introduce “River’s Law,” which would have made certain animal abuse offenses a second-degree crime.
Advocates including the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) applauded the judge’s ruling in the case.
“The MCSPCA is pleased with this outcome and grateful to all who participated with furthering the rights of animals and protecting them in Monmouth County!” the group wrote in a Facebook post.
As for whatever happened to River, the Monmouth County SPCA reported last April that he had been adopted into a loving home.