Rafu Staff and Wire Service Reports
NORWALK.–The former kennel assistant who pleaded no contest to felony animal cruelty for nearly starving her German shepherd to death was sentenced Monday.
Norwalk Superior Court Judge Robert Higa made the decision to reduce the original charge to a misdemeanor and sentenced Kimberly Kimiko Nizato of Bellflower to 30 days in jail and counseling. He also ordered her to reimburse the cost of treating the dog.
The animal, known at the time as Bosco, was nursed back to health at the Orange County German Shepherd Rescue, where it was renamed Courage.
News of the reduction of the charge did not sit well with some animal rights groups and several spectators who attended the sentencing had hoped Nizato would receive the maximum penalty for felony animal cruelty, which is three years in prison.
One organization’s website called for mass attendance of the sentencing so that the judge would have “no choice” but to hand down a harsh sentence.
“We were hoping for a felony conviction,” Noreen Furubayashi told KNX radio. A volunteer at the Orange County German Shepherd Rescue, Furubayashi said the order to reimburse the center for the dog’s care is appropriate, but that a stiffer penalty was called for because Nizato was working as an assistant as a veterinary hospital at the time.
Nizato, 27, was arrested in April 2010 after giving her severely malnourished dog to a friend for care. The 3-year-old dog weighed under 40 pounds, half his normal weight, and had been surviving by eating dirt and rocks, according to veterinarians. The emergency treatment included blood and plasma transfusions.
Courage has fully recovered and now lives with a woman who was a volunteer at the center where he was treated.