A Level Plains man accused of 11 counts of cruelty to animals reached a plea deal at Level Plains Municipal Court on Tuesday, April 9.
Raymond Christopher Bryant pled guilty to one count of animal cruelty and relinquished ownership of the dogs recovered by officers as part of the plea deal as well as pay restitution.
Level Plains Police Department recovered nine dogs and found the skeletal remains of a dog and four animal carcasses during a search of Bryant’s property on Feb. 9, according to LPPD Chief Ivan Keith Gray.
Substitute City Prosecutor David White said the health of the recovered dogs was the city’s main concern and played a part in the plea deal.
“Since he (Bryant) is willing to do that, the city is willing to allow him to plead guilty to one count (of cruelty to animals) and pay all restitution assigned in this case,” White said to a packed community center, which serves as the courtroom.
He had no comment on the outcome of the case.
The restitution will include paying for food and board to the organizations that have been taking care of the dogs since the seizure on Feb. 9.
These organizations include Ozark Animal Control, S.O.S. Animal Shelter and Wiregrass Animal Group.
Bryant’s lawyer Charles Fleming said that the restitution would be several thousand dollars, but that he believed the outcome was the right one.
“I think that justice was served here today,” Fleming said. “I think the rumor mill went crazy on my client and I don’t think he’s an evil person. He’s a hog hunter and that’s tough on animals but not illegal. They’re raised to run and hunt all day.”
He likened the state of the dogs to a hockey player.
“If you saw a hockey player walking down the street, he would be all bruised because the sport is tough,” Fleming said. “It’s the same thing with these dogs.”
S.O.S. Animal Shelter Board of Directors President Bill Brooks was called to help with the relocation of the animals on the day of the search and S.O.S. Animal Shelter is currently taking care of five recovered dogs.
After the court hearing, Brooks said he was happy that Bryant relinquished ownership of the dogs.
“The relatively light sentence is of concern, but from an animal rescue standpoint, the most important fact is that the animals that Mr. Bryant neglected are no longer subjected to his criminal behavior,” Brooks said. “As part of the animal rescue community, one of the SOS Animal Shelter’s primary goals is to provide shelter, sustenance, veterinary care and compassion to animals that are lost, abandoned, orphaned, neglected or abused. We are very pleased to report that the five dogs in our care will soon be ready to go to new homes, and receive the love and attention that they deserve, and that’s what shelters do.”
He urged everyone to support the strengthening of animal protection laws.
“From a purely legal standpoint, I urge all of you to contact your representative and ask that laws protecting animals in Alabama be strengthened so that violators will be incarcerated, and following their release from confinement, there will be no possibility of ever possessing animals again,” Brooks said. “We are the voice for these animals, but until our cries for help are turned into law, the officers of police and sheriff’s departments are just as frustrated as we are.”