JESSUP, Md. (WJZ) — A man has been sentenced for seriously injuring his Labrador retriever puppy last year.

Clifton Wayne Skeen, 38, pleaded guilty to aggravated animal cruelty in Howard County on Tuesday.

Prosecutors said on Oct. 26, 2017, a county animal control officer responded to Skeen’s then-residence in the 8200 block of Washington Boulevard, where he found the six-month-old puppy limping and favoring its left rear leg.

A woman who answered the door said the dog began limping after a bath given two days prior and that she had an appointment with a veterinarian. When the officer began to call the vet to confirm, she recanted and admitted there was no appointment for the dog named Buddy.

The dog was taken to Glenwood Veterinary Clinic where it was determined that the dog suffered from a broken hip that occurred three to five weeks before and was caused by significant force, officials say.

Skeen — the woman’s son — told the officer in an interview that the dog was fine when he left the residence on Oct. 19, but when he returned home that evening, the dog was injured. He denied injuring the dog and offered that he had lightly hit Buddy to correct the dog’s behavior in the past.

But prosecutors told the court that a witness told officers that she observed Skeen hitting the dog with closed fists on two separate occasions, including one in which Skeen swung the dog by his collar. She reported that Buddy received surgery on his hip and rehabilitative therapy and was subsequently adopted by a caring owner.

Skeen’s Attorney stated that his client agreed to the statement of facts but did not admit to causing the dog’s fractured hip. The attorney maintained that Skeen didn’t know what caused that injury and that financial difficulties prevented him from seeking veterinary care for Buddy.

Skeen told the judge that he regretted his actions.

“Puppies don’t do things that warrant that kind of explosive reaction,” Judge Richard Bernhardt said.

Judge Bernhardt sentenced Skeen to a three-year term, suspending all but 30 days and ordered $1,877.68 restitution to Howard County Animal Control for the care and treatment of Buddy.

Upon his release, Skeen faces two years of supervised probation, during which time he is prohibited from owning or being near animals.

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