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Owner of dog found in Norfolk basement pleads guilty to animal cruelty charge

NORFOLK, Va. - Months after a Norfolk man surrendered his family pet to Norfolk Animal Control, he pleaded guilty to animal cruelty.

Renard Morton was charged earlier this year. In court Friday, he accepted a plea deal from the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office. He will serve six months in jail and is not allowed to own pets while living in Norfolk. Terms of the deal also say that Animal Control has to inspect Morton's home to make sure no other pets are currently there.

Ruby

Morton's dog was found in the basement of his Norfolk home. She was emaciated and neglected, and vets say she was days away from  death.

In addition to Morton being in the courtroom, more than a dozen animal supporters were also there, all dressed in red. The rescue agency, Dog's Deserve Better, is now taking care of the dog rescued from Morton's home. She has been named Ruby.

"We can all show ourselves in solidarity as a group today. Everyone here would know why we are here for Ruby," said Shocky Boyajian of  Dogs Deserve Better. "Even though she can't speak for herself, we can be her voice and that is why we are here - to be her voice."

Boyajian says she hopes Morton's sentence will send a message to others who hurt animals.

"Hopefully it will just prevent people from acting like this towards animals. They will see there is a price to pay for it. Before, I feel like it was an act that people didn't take seriously and the punishment doesn’t fit the crime."

The judge is allowing Morton to serve his sentence on the weekends. Morton says his daughter has a kidney disease and needs him to care for her while she goes through dialysis.

After court Morton didn't address the charges but told News 3 more about his family health struggles.

"There are people that have a lot of things going on with their family," said Morton. "My wife had her kidney taken out; she died from kidney failure. My daughter is going through kidney problems right now."

When asked if these health issues were the reason behind him not caring for his dog, he said, "That is most of it."

Morton will begin serving his six-month sentence at the Norfolk City Jail on March 30.

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