A Clarke County Superior Court judge sentenced a University of Georgia student to two years of probation after she pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges in the deaths of seven puppies.
Judge David Sweat also ordered 21-year-old Ashley Rose Council to serve 120 hours of community service and fined her $600.
Police had alleged Council beat the puppies to death and threw them in the trash, but prosecutors later charged her with misdemeanors rather than felonies.
Council was a part-time clerk at UGA's Veterinary Teaching Hospital when she was arrested.
She was scheduled to stand trial before a judge but instead accepted all seven misdemeanor cruelty counts.
Her plea, called an Alford plea, allowed Council to accept punishment without conceding guilt by admitting prosecutors had enough evidence to convict her.
Sweat heard more than three hours of evidence from prosecuting and defense attorneys before he sentenced Council.
Authorities had no solid proof to support allegations Council beat the dogs to death, according to District Attorney Ken Mauldin.
Even so, prosecutors asked the judge to order Council to serve jail time.
"It was our opinion she should have gotten confinement, and it is still our opinion," Mauldin said.
Arrest warrants alleged Council beat the seven mixed-breed puppies to death and left them in a box in a large trash bin behind a store.
The box bore a label with Council's Ellenwood home address, and she had called Athens-Clarke Animal Control to ask about surrendering the weeks-old puppies to the Beaverdam Road shelter.
A grand jury indicted Council on seven felony counts of animal cruelty, each count punishable by up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine, but prosecutors last week presented the case to a different grand jury that charged Council with seven misdemeanor cruelty charges.
Sweat sentenced Council as a first-offender, meaning her convictions will be expunged if she completes probation.
Council currently is enrolled at UGA, but no longer works at the veterinary hospital.
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Athens police said Ashley Council, 20, violently killed the weeks-old puppies and left them in a box behind a convenience store last month.
Council had been employed as a clerical worker at UGA's Veterinary Teaching Hospital since last August. She was suspended from her job Monday, pending the outcome of the investigation, UGA officials said.
Police traced a shipping label on the box, which originally held a comforter from JCPenney, to Council. Animal control officers also found a long metal pipe on top of the box that held the seven puppies' bodies. Council was arrested early Thursday morning and taken to Athens Clarke County jail. She was released on $7,000 bond, $1,000 per count.
Athens-Clarke County Police Detective Rebecca Taft said the puppies were covered with bruises and some had open wounds. "They suffered," Taft said. "They were all huddled together in a little bunch."
Taft said the black, tan and white puppies were a small breed mix and she estimated their age between seven and eight weeks old.
Council was a part-time student clerical worker and her job did not involve contact with animals, vet school spokeswoman Tracy Giese said in an e-mail. Taft said Council adopted a dachshund from Animal Control in June. She called Animal Control the morning she allegedly killed the puppies to ask about surrendering them. She was told she could bring the puppies in, said Patrick Rives, animal control superintendent.
"She was told all she had to do was live in Clarke County and it wasn't a problem." The student was not supposed to have dogs in her apartment, Taft said. Full story.
OTHER NEWS SOURCES:
Student Denies Beating Puppies to Death
Reported by: JUANITA COUSINS & ALEXIS GARRABO
The Red and Black
Excerpt: "Whatever happened was unintentional," said Ashley Rose Council, a junior from Ellenwood, in a telephone interview Tuesday with The Red & Black. "This isn't anything I'd do."
"Rives (Animal Control Superintendent) said officers traced the puppies to a call from a woman earlier that morning inquiring if there was a limit of animals she could surrender to animal control. She told animal control she had seven puppies she wanted to put in the shelter. An officer told the woman there was no limit if she was an ACC resident and recommended she spay the adult dog, the report said."
"If convicted, Council faces up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine per felony count."
UGA Student Held in Puppy Beating
Reported by: Denis O'Hayer
11Alive- NBC News
Excerpt: "Council is now charged with seven felony counts of animal cruelty. The animal control superintendent said that hours before the bodies were found, a woman called the center, saying she had seven puppies she didn't want."
"We were able to trace back that telephone call and telephone number, and we were able to match that name from the shipping label and the adoption application," said animal control Superintendent Patrick Rives."
Police: UGA Vet School Worker Beat Puppies To Death
Excerpt: "A spokesman for the vet school, Tracy Giese, told the AJC Council is still employed with the hospital but does not have contact with animals."
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