Animal rescue group blasts plea deal in Macomb County dog abuse case

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A Metro Detroit animal advocacy group is seeking a harsher punishment for a woman facing sentencing in a case involving the abuse and attempted drowning of her dog in Macomb County.

Detroit Pit Crew Rescue objected to a plea deal Amber Sunde recently received that calls for two years’ probation, restitution and mental health treatment after being charged with animal abuse of her pup, formerly named Lux.

Theresa Sumpter, the group’s founder and director, is seeking jail time instead.

Lux underwent multiple treatments after he was rescued in January.

"There’s no real consequence,” she told The Detroit News. “The plea deal offered by the Prosecutor’s Office is so very low, I couldn’t believe it.” 

Detroit Pit Crew arranged more than $600 worth of veterinary care for the dog, now named Finn, after investigators found the nearly 6-month-old pet with a skull fracture, broken legs and previous injuries, Sumpter said.

Utica police turned to the group about helping Finn in early January, soon after responding to witnesses reporting Sunde trying to submerge him in the Clinton River, Sumpter said.

Sunde was charged with third-degree animal killing/torturing, a felony, court records show.

The 26-year-old pleaded guilty last month. If she complies with the terms of the deal, her charge will become abandoning/cruelty to an animal causing death, according to court records.

She is scheduled to be sentenced in Macomb County Circuit Court on May 12 before Judge James Biernat Jr.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page Wednesday, Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido defended the deal.

“There is no excuse for the heinous manner in which the defendant treated her dog,” he said. “That being said, my office did approve a deviation request on this specific case ...," citing that Sunde is a first-time offender, has surrendered another dog, must pay all restitution and continues mental health treatment.

“The strict oversight provided by the Mental Health Court/probation provides the best opportunity for someone with mental illness to be truly rehabilitated,” the prosecutor said. “Upon successful completion of Mental Health Court/Probation, the defendant will still have a criminal conviction of animal abuse charge on her record … Incarceration, together with a felony disposition, will be pursued if the defendant is not successful in completing her treatment.”

Ultimately, Lucido added, “the sentencing judge has complete control and authority over the sentencing of the defendant — which may also include jail time. While we may have differing opinions of what is the appropriate course of action in this specific case, I believe truth and facts are the most important component of EVERY case that comes before my office.”

Sumpter disagreed with the decision, noting the severity of the injuries to dog, who has since been adopted. Finn might still require a leg amputation, she said.

“We feel like she really does need some jail time," Sumpter said. "The crime she committed against this animal was very inhumane.”

Sumpterworries the plea deal won’t prevent Sunde from harming other animals. “How will we keep other animals safe from her going forward?” she said. “And where’s the justice for Lux?”

Reached for comment Thursday, Sunde’s attorney, Bill Barnwell, said: “Consistent with state statute, a condition of the plea agreement is that Miss Sunde not own or possess any animals.”

Barnwell said a pre-sentence investigation by Corrections officials “has recommended a probationary sentence that is consistent with public policy and state sentencing guidelines for this offense. Locking people up with serious mental health struggles and throwing away the key does not deter crime."