MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Malcolm Boyer, a South Orange resident, pleaded guilty Wednesday night in South Orange Municipal Court to the charge of animal cruelty after a dog in his care died.

Boyer was hired to care for Kathy and Marc Handelman's two dogs, Frankie and Cooper, in their South Orange house for eight days last April while they were on vacation with their three children. When the Handelman family returned to their home, they found Frankie dead in their basement. 

The attorney for the State of New Jersey argued that Boyer "willfully did not render the care he should have," adding that the sentencing should reflect that "this is not something that will be tolerated, especially in South Orange."

Sign Up for E-News

Kathy Handelman described Frankie as a "very special dog," and that her children spoke of the day they got him as the best day of their lives. "It was a horrible loss for us and it didn't need to happen," said Handelman.

When entering the guilty plea, Boyer stated that he failed to get medical attention for Frankie, adding, "I'm sorry this happened. I've never had anything like this happen."

Boyer's attorney noted this was his client's first time before the court for any matter, with the exception of possibly some traffic tickets.

Boyer was sentenced to a 60 days in prison, which was suspended, to pay the maximum penalty of $2,000, $2,500 for restitution, and to perform 100 hours of community service. Boyer will be on probation for two years, and will not be allowed to engage in any employment or business that involves dogs in any way, including training, walking or sitting. Judge Jonathan H. Rosenbluth suggested that Boyer should change his area of employment, stating, "he had better seek a different kind of job. He's not good at that."

When sentencing, Rosenbluth stated that he was "very impressed by the Handleman family" and that it was a "privilege to be around people with such big hearts." Rosenbluth also noted the community members who were sitting in the court room, many whom were neighbors of the Handelmans and local dog walkers and sitters.

Marc Handleman praised the courts handling of the lawsuit, saying "I'm a proud New Jerseyian today for the attention the State has given to this case."

Jessica Tuck, owner of Peace Out Dog, said she was very happy with the verdict. "We've been waiting for our day, their day, in court for months now and we're really just glad that it's finally over and that he's being punished. Him losing his ability to work with dogs was our biggest concern and although it's only for two years we're hopeful that will mean something," said Tuck.