A former Manatee County animal services officer who forgot he had left a dog in a hot van, killing the animal, has pleaded no contest to a charge of animal cruelty.
Fredrick Browning, 36, pleaded no contest to the first-degree misdemeanor charge last week and was sentenced to 12 months probation and 25 hours of community service.
Browning originally faced a charge of aggravated animal cruelty charge, a 3rd-degree felony.
At the end of his shift on May 17, 2017, Browning arrived at the Manatee County Animal Services shelter, 305 25th St. W., Palmetto, after picking up one dog that was alive and two that were dead. He unloaded the two dead dogs and cleaned out the area of the van where they had been.
Browning, however, forgot about the dog that was alive, a brindle-colored female, in a cage. He later admitted to sheriff’s office detectives that he forgot the dog and was “not in his right mind” because he starting his vacation.
The next day, staff at the shelter spent hours looking to see if the dog had been misplaced in the kennel before getting a text message from Browning, who realized that he had forgotten the dog in the van.
Browning recognizes that he made a mistake, defense attorney Brett McIntosh said on his behalf on Tuesday.
“He didn’t have any intent to leave the dog,” McIntosh said.
But Browning accepted that because his forgetting the dog led to its death, a plea deal was in his best interest. Browning has since chosen a different career path, no longer working with animals, according to his attorney, and was just looking to put this mistake behind him.
“He spent the last 15 years protecting animals ... doing the job most people wouldn’t want to do and seeing animals in the worst conditions,” McIntosh said. “Forgetting is not a felony. Forgetting can be the basis of the misdemeanor charge which is why we accepted that.”
The dog died as a result of heat stroke, according to court records.
On May 25, 2017, three days after being placed on administrative leave as a result of the investigation, Browning resigned his job at Animal Services. Since the incident, a new policy was implemented requiring a second employee to inspect vehicles after they return to the shelter to ensure no animals are left behind.