Andrew Cottle

Andrew Cottle of Matoaka was sentenced to one to five years in jail on Monday for leaving five dogs alone in a vacant residence, with four of the dogs starving to death.

PRINCETON — A Matoaka man was sentenced to one to five years in jail Monday for leaving five dogs in a vacant residence, with four starving to death.

Andrew Cottle, 45, had been free on bond but was placed in shackles after Mercer County Circuit Court Judge Mark Wills told him what he did was “terrible” and “cruel.”

Cottle had entered a “best interest” plea to one felony charge of animal cruelty in August 2019, which means a plea rather than a jury trial may be in his best interest.

During that plea hearing, he admitted he left five dogs locked in a vacant home without food or water for more than 10 consecutive days in 2018.

Four of the five dogs died from starvation.

Cottle was indicted in February 2019 on four counts of animal cruelty after being arrested in October 2018 when Mercer County Sheriff’s Office Det. L.L. Addair investigated a complaint by Animal Control.

In the criminal complaint, Addair said a residence that had been occupied by the suspect had been abandoned with his late wife’s five dogs left behind.

The complaint said the woman’s daughter would have cared for the animals, but said she was denied access by Cottle.

After Addair obtained a search warrant, he said he and an Animal Control officer found four of the five dogs “deceased and decomposing … Claw marks and holes from bites were observed to the bottom of the living room door and furniture.”

When Cottle was located, he told Addair he was trying to “get rid of the dogs” when he left the residence and had not been back for two weeks, the complaint said.

In the August hearing, Wills told Cottle by accepting the plea based on one felony count of animal cruelty he could be sentenced to one to five years.

Wills said Monday a best interest plea is basically a guilty plea and refused a request by defense attorney Raeann Osborne to have a deferred sentence and probation.

Osborne told Wills that the pre-sentence investigation stated that Cottle was at “low risk” for any future occurrence.

“He has gone without any other charges and his record is clean,” she said, with no prior record.

She also said Cottle was employed and asked Wills to accept deferred abdication and a period of probation based on the low-risk evaluation.

But Wills said he had issues with the pre-sentence investigation report.

“There are several things in there that concern me,” he said.

Cottle knew the dogs were in there and changed the locks so no one could get in, Wills said, adding that Cottle also told a concerned neighbor he had gotten rid of the animals.

“That type of behavior concerns the court greatly,” Wills said, adding that Cottle left the dogs in the trailer “to starve to death and with no water. That’s what the facts indicate.”

“I can’t think of a worse death for an animal or human, to go without food or water until they are dead,” he said. “You knew they were there. I think that is cruel, terrible …”

Cottle will be given 17 days of time already served after he was initially arrested, and Wills said various motions can be filed related to sentencing or an appeal.

Cottle was taken to Southern Regional Jail.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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