Not a violent crime? After dog starved to death, NJ law lets owner avoid jail
EAST WINDSOR — A man charged with starving to death his 7-year-old pit bull will avoid going to jail because New Jersey law does not consider animal abuse a violent crime.
Matthew Wydrinski, 36, of East Windsor, posted on the internet looking for help with a sick dog, which police later said died.
Wydrinski was hit with third-degree charges of animal cruelty for failing to provide the animal with necessary care, according to Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri.
After pleading not guilty, Wydrinski applied for pre-trial intervention, which allows first-time non-violent offenders to avoid incarceration. Wydrinski had no prior criminal record, according to the prosecutor.
Onofri said that the law as it stands does not classify animal cruelty crimes as crimes of violence, making offenders like Wydrinski eligible.
"Regardless of my personal views on animal cruelty laws, I am bound to enforce the law as it is written. Until such time as animal cruelty laws are changed, PTI will remain an appropriate and common resolution to these types of crimes," Onofri said.
Wydrinski must complete 40 hours of community service, pay fines and costs associated with the case, obtain/maintain employment, and report to a supervising probation officer as directed for three years, according to Onofri. He is also forbidden from owning or possessing any animals during the term of PTI.
According to the animal rights group Animalvictory.org, which posted an online petition supporting a tougher sentence, Wydrinsk owned the dog named Tori for just four months during which time her weight plunged to just 18 pounds. He took Tori in after her owners divorced.
"Tori's dying moments were recorded on video. The malnourished dog, too weak to raise her head, can be seen on the floor, next to a brand new food bowl which is empty," the group wrote in its petition, which is no longer accepting signatures.
The group wrote that it was glad the court took the care seriously but disappointed that he will not do jail time.
"We hope to see the animal cruelty laws in the state of New Jersey be strengthened to include these crimes as crimes of violence. You can be sure Animal Victory will continue to work towards enforcing the maximum punishment and strengthening the laws," the group wrote.