Judge explains lack of jail time for man who baked dog in oven

A Marion County judge is explaining his decision not to sentence an admitted animal abuser to jail or prison time, after outcry from the animal welfare community.

CALL 6 | Legal experts weigh in on dog baker's sentence

Judge William Nelson sentenced Joel Clark on Tuesday to two years home detention at Good News Ministries after Clark pleaded guilty to baking his friend’s dog to death in an oven.

“This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make in 15 years,” Judge Nelson told Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney.  “I hope I don’t regret this decision.”

CALL 6 | Man who killed dog in oven avoids jail time

Nelson explained Clark is battling alcohol and mental health issues, while holding down a job to support two children.

“One of the biggest factors in this case is that the victim (owner of the dog) pleaded with me not to send Clark to jail,” said Judge Nelson.  “She wanted him to get help instead. I took all of that into account, plus the prosecutor wasn’t asking for jail time.”

Court records show Clark reached a plea agreement with prosecutors on July 20 in which he agreed to plead guilty to three "D" felonies: torturing or mutilating a vertebrate animal; killing a domestic animal; and escape (for violating a previous home detention order).

“(Clark) took responsibility from day one,” said Nelson. “He also spent nine months in jail waiting for his case to be disposed of.”

Judge Nelson said he’s received letters from animal advocates criticizing the sentence.

On social media, many expressed outrage that Clark was sentenced to home detention despite admitting to violating a previous home detention order stemming from a resisting law enforcement charge.

“I’m going to give this guy a chance, but if he screws up, he’s going to prison,” said Judge Nelson.

Nelson also pointed out that Clark will have to perform community service for an animal shelter, likely using his carpentry skills, but will not be allowed near the animals.

“Nobody loves dogs more than I do,” said Judge Nelson. “I told him what he did was inexcusable. Was this an easy decision for me? Absolutely not.”

Clark will also have to continue going to treatment for alcohol and mental health problems.

Clark was on house arrest and living with friends in May of 2014, when one of the friends discovered her dog, Zane, dead at the bottom of a trash can.

She later opened the oven door and saw a cookie sheet and pizza pan with red dog hair and what appeared to be a toenail from a small dog.

According to the probable cause, officials performed a necropsy and found Zane’s whiskers were burned, and he had burn marks on his legs and feet.

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