A Gainesville man who drowned one dog in a toilet and stabbed another to death after collecting news clippings about the Michael Vick dogfighting case received a one-year prison sentence this week.
Marty Eugene Savage, 52, pleaded guilty to felony aggravated cruelty to animals Monday and was sentenced by Hall County Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin to five years, with one year to serve in prison and the remaining four on probation. Under the terms of the negotiated plea agreement, he must take an anger management course and not own any pets while on probation.
Savage admitted in court to drowning a 7-year-old black Pomeranian named Smoky in a toilet and stabbing a 5-week-old Labrador mix named Buddy in the head with a serrated-edge steak knife. The killings took place two weeks apart in September and October 2007 in the Chicopee house Savage shared with his wife, who owned the dogs.
The puppy had diarrhea and Savage claimed the older dog was in poor health, which his wife, who has since divorced him, disputed, according to Assistant District Attorney Vanessa Sykes. Savage admitted to being drunk during the assaults and has since received treatment for alcohol abuse, Sykes said.
Sykes said Gosselin was "horrified" by the facts of the case and expressed concern that prosecutors weren’t asking for more prison time. Sykes said she took into account Savage’s relatively minor prior criminal history and compared the case with domestic violence and drug-related felony cases in which prison time usually only comes after multiple offenses.
"I’m a dog lover myself, and I wanted to make sure that my love of animals didn’t interfere with being fair in this case," Sykes said.
Savage did not address the court during the hearing and was not asked to speak, Sykes said. He was given credit for time already served in jail between October 2007 and March 2008, meaning he has about seven months of the sentence left to serve. Savage was ordered to report to the Hall County Jail by Friday.
According to testimony in a November 2007 preliminary hearing, a sheriff’s deputy who responded to Savage’s home on Avenue B found the dogs’ bodies in plastic grocery bags that had been thrown over a backyard fence into a wooded area.
The body of Smoky, the Pomeranian who was drowned, was too decomposed for a necropsy. A necropsy of Buddy concluded he was beaten prior to being stabbed through the lower muzzle and into the brain.
Savage’s ex-wife testified she saw her then-husband stomp on the puppy before going into the kitchen to retrieve a knife.
Deputies later noted news clippings about the Vick case taped to a wall of Savage’s home. Savage’s ex-wife claimed he was "obsessed" by the Vick case and felt that animals should not be protected under the law. Savage also felt Vick was foolish for having been caught, according to his ex-wife.
Vick is serving a 23-month federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to dog fighting charges in December 2007 in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors allege the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback took part in the executions of several underperforming dogs by hanging, drowning and electrocution.