Florida Keys

Bubba the hungry puppy stole a steak — and that led to tragedy

Noah Mitchell
Noah Mitchell

A Key Largo man convicted of felony animal cruelty after nearly killing a Labrador retriever puppy in 2010 has been sentenced to five years of probation and nine months in county jail.

The story of Bubba the dog and his former owner Noah Mitchell, 40, captivated the pet-friendly Keys after Mitchell’s October 2010 arrest at his Key Largo home. That’s where, at the hand of Mitchell, the dog suffered injuries consistent with being hit by a car or dropped off a balcony, veterinarians say.

Mitchell’s sentencing happened Nov. 28 before Acting Circuit Court Judge Ruth Becker in Marathon. He has been in the Stock Island jail without bond since he was found guilty of third-degree felony animal cruelty on Nov. 7 after a two-day trial.

On top of probation and nine months in county jail, Assistant State Attorney Jon Byrne said Mitchell will have to undergo a psychological evaluation and do eight hours of community service a month while on probation. He is barred from possessing any animals or caring for animals that belong to others for the duration.

He’ll also have to pay almost $2,000 for court costs, the investigation and prosecution, Byrne said. There wasn’t any restitution for Bubba’s care because all of it was paid for through donations, he said.

Witnesses say the day Bubba suffered his injuries, Oct. 3, 2010, Mitchell was moving into his new house on Pimlico Lane with the help of two friends who later became witnesses for the prosecution.

After the day’s work was done, the men barbecued steaks and drank beer. When Bubba took a piece of meat off the counter and ran outside, Mitchell reportedly slammed, kicked and punched the dog. Bubba suffered a broken larynx, a collapsed lung and six broken ribs.

Byrne said Mitchell maintains Bubba’s injuries were an accident. He recovered and was adopted by an out-of-state owner and is reportedly doing well.

In July 2014, the Third District Court of Appeal reversed a six-member jury’s conviction from 2012 when Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia sentenced Mitchell to nine months in county jail. He never served a day of time after immediately posting a $10,000 appeal bond.

The case had to be retried after Mitchell’s then attorney, public defender Jerome Gilhooley, successfully argued in a December 2014 brief to the Court of Appeal that Garcia made prejudicial comments to Mitchell regarding his excuse for the pet’s horrific injuries.

Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219