A Long Branch man who left a pit bull puppy to drown in a cage in the Sandy Hook Bay in order to get back at a romantic rival was sentenced this week to a year in prison.

Aaron D. Davis, 36, was convicted in December of animal cruelty in the July 2018 incident.

The 8-month-old puppy was rescued by a passerby walking her dog before the rising tide could drown the puppy. Rescuers named the dog "River" as investigators worked to determine how the animal had gotten there.

Authorities learned that Davis took the dog from its owner following a domestic dispute that day. Highlands police had responded to that disturbance that morning and images of the dog were captured on officers' body cam recordings, allowing the rescued animal to be identified later.

River the pitbull (Ross Licitra)

The dog was originally named "Blaze" and had belonged to the ex-boyfriend of Davis' girlfriend, officials said at the time. After its rescue, the dog was adopted by new owners.

“Abusing defenseless animals is an intolerable act and even more despicable when the animal was abused in retaliation to ‘get back’ at its owner," Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said Friday in a written statement.

Davis turned himself into police days later.

He was facing a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison on the fourth-degree charge. A Superior Court judge handed down a one-year prison sentence along with an order to pay restitution and perform community service.

The incident sparked a proposal to make animal abuse cases involving "extreme indifference" a second-degree felony punishable by five to 10 years in prison, but River's Law was never taken up by legislative committees.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect that Davis was sentenced to a year in state prison.

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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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