A sobbing Chad Scott Miller apologized Tuesday in Cowlitz County Superior Court for trying to kill his 2-year-old pit bull with a sledgehammer, but he failed to avoid jail time for animal cruelty.
Miller, 40, of Longview told Judge Gary Bashor that he felt he’d run out of options after his dog Nero bit him in October 2012 after he struck the animal for eating a box of doughnuts.
Living off disability payments and food stamps, Miller said he thought he needed to euthanize Nero to protect his elderly grandmother at the home and children in the neighborhood, but he worried he couldn’t afford it.
“I was at the end of my rope. I didn’t know what else to do. If I gave him to somebody, and then he got bit, it was my fault. I didn’t know what to do,” Miller said in a trembling voice during his Tuesday sentencing.
“I didn’t want to hurt him. I loved him. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t really miss him.”
Nero survived the attack with three hairline fractures of the skull and spent months in foster care. Nero was returned to the Humane Society on Saturday, where he has been friendly with other dogs and staff and awaits adoption, animal control officials said.
Bashor sentenced Miller to 14 days in county jail and ordered him to pay about $5,000 in fines for second-degree animal cruelty. Bashor found Miller guilty in a Feb. 21 bench trial. As a condition of the sentence, Miller is prohibited from owning similar pets for two years.
Prosecutors had recommended a full month in jail.
In making his ruling, Bashor noted the case was “difficult” because Miller was trying to euthanize, not torture, the dog.
“Had he been successful, we wouldn’t even be here today,” Bashor said.
The animal-cruelty charges weren’t filed until a year after the incident, largely because authorities struggled to get the cooperation of witnesses. When Miller was first contacted, he said he’d killed his dog at a site in Rose Valley and buried him in the woods nearby.
A few days after Miller’s confession, some Rose Valley residents brought an injured pit bull that matched Nero’s description and wounds to the Humane Society in Longview. Miller later admitted the dog had escaped after a couple of blows to the head.
Mike Nicholson, the Humane Society’s animal control supervisor, said he believes Miller was sincere in his regret. But pet owners should investigate all options before euthanizing animals themselves, Nicholson said after the hearing.
“Just don’t try to put an animal down based on your own beliefs that you can’t afford it. You need to talk to family and friends. No one should have to do this,” Nicholson said.