Leetonia man sentenced for abuse that led to pit bull’s death

Morning Journal/Deanne Johnson Edward Altenburg was sentenced to a year in prison and can never again legally own a companion animal.

LISBON — A Leetonia man pleaded guilty to two counts of prohibitions concerning companion animals on Thursday despite claiming he was not the one who caused the physical abuse to the one-year-old pit bull, which ultimately led to her death.

Edward J. Altenburg, 43, state Route 45, Leetonia, requested immediate sentencing and received the maximum sentence for the first charge, which was a fifth-degree felony.

Assistant County Prosecutor Tammie Riley Jones, who had been asking for a six-month sentence said the veterinarian, Dr. Jeffrey Hayes, who performed the necropsy, an autopsy for animals, wrote in his report that this was the worse case he had seen in 31 years.

Jones said the charges noted Altenburg did not seek medical treatment for the dog and the dog had been picked up by the collar several times while she struggled to breathe. The dog was found with blood around its nose, significant blunt force trauma to the right side of face, hemorrhaging to the trachea and additional “inexplicable” trauma to the vaginal area.

Altenburg said he was pleading guilty, but he was not the one who did anything to the dog. He claimed he was not physically violent toward the dog. However, he admitted he was guilty of neglecting the dog’s injuries.

Altenburg has a previous misdemeanor case involving the neglect of a 16-year-old border collie, as well as two drug-related cases.

Amy Dowd, deputy dog warden, described how “heinous” the injuries were and how much it appeared the dog suffered from major physical abuse. She noted the doctor said the necropsy took three-times as long as it should have while he uncovered layer after layer of extensive tissue damage. She said Altenburg’s treatment of his animals had gotten worse over time — from neglecting an elderly dog to abusing a young dog — and she wondered how much worse it could be in the future.

Although he pleaded guilty, Altenburg maintained he was not responsible for the abuse to the pit bull, and Pike asked who was responsible. Altenburg claimed he was not home at the time, working on his sobriety by attending meetings. But he said a girl admitted to dragging the dog from the trailer by its collar and offered $10 to help pay for it’s medical bills. He noted it took the dog three hours to die. He admitted he did not do everything he could have done to help the dog.

Pike asked Altenburg if he had anything else to add.

“No, but I’m not guilty,” Altenburg said.

Pike sentenced Altenburg to a year in prison and six months on the second charge. The two were to run concurrently to each other but consecutive to time he is serving in his previous drug-related convictions. Additionally, Pike ordered Altenburg to pay restitution to the County Dog Warden’s Office and to never own a companion animal for the remainder of his life.

“Mr. Altenburg I know what I would like to say to you, but it wouldn’t be appropriate,” Pike said after sentencing. “I just don’t think you’re much of a human being.”