A judge on Friday sentenced the former owner of a Gardena guard dog company to three years' probation for his conviction of animal cruelty.
Charles Ferguson, 52, will also be required to attend counseling for animal neglect and will not be allowed to own any dogs for 10 years under the sentence handed down by Superior Court Judge Allen Webster.
Earlier this year, Ferguson was convicted of neglecting four of the dogs he owned by depriving them of drink and shelter and subjecting them to needless suffering. Ferguson previously owned and operated J.R. Ewing Guard Dogs.
Steven K. Hauser, Ferguson's attorney, said he thought the sentencing was fair because Ferguson does not have to go to jail.
"He's not a criminal," Hauser said. "He did not intend any harm to any dog, he just didn't take proper care of them."
But Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher Frisco said that if Ferguson violates any of the conditions of his suspended sentence, he could end up serving a four-year state prison term.
Frisco said he thought the court's decision was "proper."
"I'm glad we're finally taking these types of cases seriously," Frisco said. "All animals are worthy of protection."
Ferguson's license for his guard dog company was revoked by the county prior to the trial, said Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, which was the first to discover the abused dogs. He had been operating since at least the 1990s, Frisco said.
The dogs were found in various states of neglect, Frisco said, either emaciated or suffering from burned skin caused by lying in their own feces.
One dog, a Doberman pinscher, had its swollen uterus cut off while she was still alive and bled to death, Frisco said.
Another dog, a 3-year-old Rottweiler, was found dead in the back of a van where he had been left with no ventilation or food, Frisco said.
Ferguson gave differing accounts of what happened to the Rottweiler, including that he had found the dog dead, Frisco said. Throughout the trial he maintained that he had done nothing wrong.
Frisco said he initially asked for Ferguson to be sentenced to state prison, but said that the believes "the judge is giving [Ferguson] an opportunity to reform himself."