Kauai man pleads no contest to starving 20 dogs
LIHUE » An Anahola man broke down in tears yesterday as he pleaded no contest to 20 counts of animal cruelty in District Court.
His lawyer said after court that it was an accident and that Steve Cummings, 47, admitted starving 20 dogs last year for the purpose of sentencing.
In December, officials from the Kauai Humane Society found the dogs severely malnourished on Cummings' property after receiving a complaint. Three dogs were dead, 14 were severely emaciated and three others were close to death, Humane Society officials said.
"This is the most blatant case of starvation I have ever witnessed," said Kauai Humane Society Executive Director Dr. Rebecca Rhoades. "Cummings displayed a total disregard for his dogs' welfare or the suffering he caused them."
But Cummings' lawyer, Brandon Flores, said his client "loved these dogs" and that the starvation was just an "honest mistake."
The hunting dogs -- Airedale, hound and pit bull mixes -- were supposed to be cared for by a friend when Cummings was supposed to go on a trip. When the trip was postponed, Flores said, Cummings figured his friend would continue to feed them. But he did not.
The dogs were left for two weeks without food or water when Humane Society officials showed up, Flores said.
Cummings was going to go to trial yesterday on the charges, Flores said, but "at this point he's emotionally exhausted" and "he didn't want to put the family and himself through the trial."
As part of the plea deal, petty misdemeanor animal desertion charges were dropped. Cummings will also forfeit any rights to the 17 surviving dogs and pay the Humane Society $12,150 for nursing the dogs back to health.
He also faces a year in jail and a $2,000 fine for each of the 20 counts. Cummings asked for a motion to defer the charges, and a decision and possible sentencing will occur on Aug. 7.
The dogs will be turned over the Humane Society, where Rhoades said the staff will get them ready for adoption.
"We're confident we'll place them," said Rhoades. "They're great dogs."
They have been fed and cared for by a friend of Cummings' on a farm in Kapaa for the past two months. They have been handled, exercised and taken to the veterinarian regularly, Rhoades added.
Cummings has until his next court date to turn over the dogs, Flores added.