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Apollo's owner appears in court

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Apollo's owner appears in court
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The Utica man accused of leaving his three-year-old pit bull outside overnight in below zero temperatures is sentenced to community service. Michael Jenkins pleaded guilty in Utica City Court. Our Sarah Blazonis talked with Jenkins about what happened that day and tells us how animal advocates are calling for tougher penalties.

UTICA, N.Y. -- "I was trying to bring him back to life. I seen he was in a bad situation, I was trying to bring him back to life," Michael Jenkins said outside Utica City Court Monday.

Jenkins says Apollo the pit bull was already sick and malnourished when he got him from a neighbor three months ago.

"My grandkids love him, I love him," Jenkins said. "We've got plenty of food and water and everything in the house."

And though Jenkins pleaded guilty in court to letting a dog run at large, he says he was not the one who tied him to a table overnight last month when temperatures plummeted well below zero.

"I was searching for him three days, I couldn't find him. I was out there teaching him different commands, he saw a cat, took off. I tried to catch him fast as I can," said Jenkins.

When Apollo, who Jenkins called "Macho," was found, he was malnourished and in a life-threatening situation. He's now recovering at the Stevens-Swan Humane Society and a judge sentenced Jenkins to 75 hours of community service.

Animal advocates and city officials agree: What happened to Apollo is all too common. They say they want to see tough penalties put in place for those found guilty of mistreating animals.

"We have laws on the books, like Buster's Law, but we need to upgrade them to make them tougher on criminals who inflict pain and suffering on animals," said Kerry Roemer, a citizen who picketed for animal rights outside the courthouse.

"I call them the gateway crimes," said Utica's mayor, David Roefaro, who sent a letter to Andrew Cuomo calling for tougher penalties for those who abuse animals. "These are crimes that lead to other major crimes and to do that to a creature is, to me, it's just horrible."

A spokesperson for the humane society says they have requested Jenkins not do his community service there as the judge had ordered. They say they prefer the prior owner have no contact with Apollo while the dog is at the shelter.

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