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New Jersey mother pleads guilty to drowning puppy in pond


New Jersey mother, 49, faces three months in prison after pleading guilty to drowning her 10-week-old golden retriever named Jenny in a pond by weighing down cage with a crystal vase to avoid paying vet bills

  • Tonya Fea, of Jefferson Township, pleaded guilty to animal cruelty on Thursday
  • She drowned her pet puppy named Jenny in April 2019 days after adopting it
  • The dog was discovered submerged in a cage, which had been weighed down with a glass vase at a West Milford pond 
  • An autopsy proved the dog had died of asphyxiation from water and was alive prior to being put in the water 
  • When she entered her plea she complained about pricey veterinarian bills 
  • She will face up to 180 days in prison at sentencing in October  

Tonya Fea, 49, (pictured) faces three months in prison after she admitted to drowning her 10-week-old golden retriever named Jenny in a pond because she didn’t want to pay veterinarian bills

A New Jersey woman faces three months in prison after she admitted to drowning her 10-week-old golden retriever named Jenny in a pond because she didn’t want to pay veterinarian bills. 

Tonya Fea, of Jefferson Township, pleaded guilty to animal cruelty on Thursday – over two years after she drowned the puppy in April 2019.  

The dog was discovered submerged in a cage, which had been weighted down with a glass vase at a nearby West Milford pond, according to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.

‘I panicked,’ the 49-year-old mother of three told the judge when asked for a reason why she put the dog in the water.

‘What was the reason for the panic?’ Judge Marilyn Clark replied. 

‘You say you panicked, but you had a vet appointment that morning and you chose not to take the dog to the vet, you chose to take the dog in a cage and submerge it in a lake. So what were you panicking about?’

According to the terms of her plea deal, Fea will spend 180 days in jail followed by five years of probation for the crime, along with 100 days of community service.

The 10-month-old female golden retriever was named Jenny by the animal rescue who discovered the animal at a West Milford pond

The 10-month-old female golden retriever was named Jenny by the animal rescue who discovered the animal at a West Milford pond

The crystal vase Fea used to weigh the cage down with so it would fully submerge underwater

The crystal vase Fea used to weigh the cage down with so it would fully submerge underwater

She will not be legally able to own a dog, as well. 

Fea initially maintained that the puppy, which was named Jenny by Last Resort Animal Rescue and was ‘dead and ice cold’ when found, had already died when she put it in the water.

Prior to her arrest, the animal rescue had put up a $12,000 reward for anyone who could identify the person responsible for the dog’s death.  

‘It appears to be an approximately 10-week-old female golden retriever puppy who was killed/drowned and submerged into the pond in the crate,’ the post read. 

‘Weighted down with the heavy crystal vase perhaps, or maybe struck with it.’ 

During Thursday’s virtual court hearing, Fea cried as the admitted that the pup was alive when she tossed it in the water, ‘but (was) just laying there’ prior to the drowning.

She also revealed that she did not check the dog’s pulse or breathing before loading her up in a cage and driving to a nearby pond, according NorthJersey.com.  

Fea’s attorney, Richard Baldi, asked his client why she chose to submerge the pup underwater, to which she replied the ground was too cold to bury her. 

Fea (pictured with her son) is a mother of three

Fea (pictured with her son) is a mother of three

‘You knew the ground was frozen so burying it was very difficult, so you decided to submerge [the dog] in the pond?’ Fea’s attorney asked.

‘Yes,’ she responded.

Baldi also added that Fea had only adopted the dog days before her death, and that she had already booked a veterinary appointment. 

However, Fea refused to go into further detail when pressed about her concerns regarding the pricey vet bills.

Court records show that she and originally told responding officers that the dog was dead when she submerged it in the pond, but did admit ‘I guess I could have checked more,’ NorthJersey.com reports. 

The outlet claims that an autopsy proved the dog had died of asphyxiation from water and was alive prior to being put in the water. 

Meanwhile, Fea is scheduled for sentencing on October 5. 

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