Couple from Ypsilanti charged with animal cruelty

A gavel in a courtroom. (Pexels)

ANN ARBOR – Ypsilanti residents Toreek Belton and Nandella Penn recently accepted a plea agreement from the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office after witnesses saw them dragging, beating and kicking puppies, according to the Humane Society of Huron Valley.

On Oct. 20, the couple was charged with a misdemeanor and each pled to one count of animal cruelty/abandonment.

According to HSHV, a bystander saw Penn punch a puppy repeatedly on March 29, which he then tossed onto a lawn. The eyewitness said they were “horrified” after seeing the incident and the puppy’s difficulty walking afterward and contacted the HSHV Cruelty Investigators.

The incident was caught on video surveillance footage, which confirmed the bystander’s account. Additional footage recovered from the property revealed more violent abuse.

These incidents included “one with a defendant throwing a puppy to the ground; another with a defendant hitting a puppy dozens of times apparently to get him to climb stairs, each hit launching the pup up a stair. Eventually, the puppy struggled to walk up the stairs in a sideways manner, on his own,” reads an HSHV release.

Two puppies and a young dog were swiftly removed from the property by HSHV Cruelty Investigators who had obtained a search warrant. The three dogs have been in HSHV’s care since late March.

As part of the plea agreement, the couple agreed to pay $4,000 in restitution, which the HSHV says is a “fraction of the actual cost of boarding and medical treatment for the three dogs.”

“It’s important to note that this type of repeated violent abuse by caregivers doesn’t just create physical injuries,” HSHV’s President and CEO Tanya Hilgendorf said in a release. “Just like with children, this kind of trauma can have a lasting impact. Dogs are resilient and so forgiving, but abuse—particularly during critical developmental stages—can be quite detrimental, causing ongoing fear and anxiety, and an inability to feel safe even in a loving home. That is why both expert medical and behavioral treatment—and patient adopters—for victims of cruelty are so critical.”

The HSHV said that loving placements have been found for the dogs.

The defendants will appear in the 14A-2 District Court in Ypsilanti for official sentencing on Dec. 20. Following the sentencing, they will be placed on probation during which they will be prohibited to possess, own or house any animals.

“This horrible case is a reminder that animals are completely dependent on humans for protection,” Hilgendorf said in a release. “If no one had reported this cruel situation, those innocent puppies would continue to be hurt and there would surely be other victims to follow. They need us to be their voice. We are so grateful to those caring and brave community members who called us and helped with this case.”

Anyone in Washtenaw County who suspects animal neglect or abuse can report incidents online to HSHV or call 734-661-3512.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.