Tonya Fea Jefferson NJ woman drowns puppy over looming vet bill. Dog owner had only adopted dog days earlier. Claimed she panicked.
Probably not the pet owner of the year… A New Jersey woman admitted to drowning a 10-week-old puppy over concerns that the animal– she had only adopted days earlier, needed expensive veterinary care, prosecutors said.
Tonya Fea, 49, of Jefferson Township, Morris County, pleaded guilty Thursday to animal cruelty in the April 2019 drowning of a female golden retriever that was found submerged in a cage weighted down by a glass vase at a pond in West Milford, according to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
As part of a plea deal, prosecutors recommended Fea serve 180 days in jail followed by five years of probation. The woman will also be required to do 100 days of community service along with not being allowed to own a dog again.
During Thursday hearing, Fea said that she ‘panicked’ while deciding to ‘dispose of’ the sick dog, NorthJersey.com reported.
‘You knew the ground was frozen so burying it was very difficult, so you decided to submerge [the dog] in the pond?’ Fea’s attorney asked. ‘Yes,’ she replied.
Admitted sick dog was breathing when she decided to drown it
The dog was discovered ‘dead and ice cold’ on April 30, 2019, according to a Facebook post by Last Resort Animal Rescue. The organization named the puppy Jenny while announcing a $12,000 reward for the person responsible for her death.
‘It appears to be an approximately 10-week-old female golden retriever puppy who was killed/drowned and submerged into the pond in the crate,’ the post read.
The Daily Voice reported inside the cage with Jenny was a wee-wee pad and a lead-crystal ice bucket that authorities believe was used to weigh it down.
The pads had some blood on them and were stuck to Jenny’s head according to the Daily Voice.
Fea sobbed throughout the 20-minute virtual hearing, during which she admitted the dog was breathing ‘but just laying there’ when she checked on her the morning of the drowning.
Hours later, Fea said, she didn’t see if the dog had a pulse or was breathing before driving to the pond, NorthJersey.com reported.
‘I panicked,’ Fea told a judge when asked why she put the puppy in the water.
Panicked over high vet bill
‘What was the reason for the panic?’ Judge Marilyn Clark continued. ‘You say you panicked, but you had a vet appointment that morning and you chose not to take the dog to the vet, you chose to take the dog in a cage and submerge it in a lake. So what were you panicking about?’
Fea balked at the question, but her attorney said she made a vet appointment for the dog after adopting it days earlier. She ultimately decided not to go over concerns of high vet bills, attorney Richard Baldi said.
Fea had previously told cops the dog was dead when she put into the pond, court records show.
‘I guess I could have checked more,’ Fea said Thursday.
A necropsy found that the dog died of asphyxiation from water, records cited by NorthJersey.com show.
Not immediately clear is whether Fea was aware that the dog was in need of treatment prior to adopting it and whether she had gone back to the adoption center upon finding out about looming expenses following the animal’s adoption.
Fea was indicted on a charge of animal cruelty by a grand jury in February 2020. She applied for the state’s pretrial intervention program to resolve the charge, but was rejected.
Sentencing will take place on October 5.