Cruelty vs Stupidity: Judge in hot car puppy rescue speaks out

The puppy left in a hot car in Manor earlier this month is still at the Austin Animal Center tonight -- waiting for her owner to pick her up.

The judge in the controversial case of a puppy being returned to her owner after he left her in a hot car is speaking out. He said this is a case of stupidity, not cruelty.

"The chief of police called me at home one evening and asked if I needed to have a police car sit outside the house," said Judge Jeffery Lewis. He isn't used to getting threats, but his latest case is stirring up some controversy.

Days after officers rescued 10-week-old puppy Annabelle from inside a car on a 99-degree day, Lewis presided over what he describes as a custody hearing of sorts.

"I looked at the law, I looked at the conditions that fell under the guidelines of cruelty and I just didn't see it," he said.

Lewis ruled her owner, 20-year-old Chandler Bullen, can have Annabelle back.

He considered Bullen's age, the fact that he had no prior animal-related arrests and the dog's condition.

"She's chubby," he explained. "And you can tell by the way they wag their tails if they're happy or not, so I didn't see any indication and usually with abuse and things like that there's previous fractures."

The original affidavit states Annabelle had fleas and lesions, but Lewis says that was not brought to his attention.

It also states Bullen admitted to police he left Annabelle in the car because he "didn't want to waste gas".

"When he talked about his financial condition I wasn't sure he could've made it to the lake if he left his car running," Lewis added.

Bullen has until July 22 to pick up Annabelle, with certain stipulations set by Lewis and outlined in a document issued Tuesday by the court.

Bullen has to pay a $95 court fee and a fee to Austin Animal Center for room and board, which is over $300 and climbing by the day.

He then will need to check in with the court periodically to prove Annabelle is healthy.

"You know I was weighing cruelty versus stupidity and at that point, stupidity kinda weighed out," he added.

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