Sterling man faces felony, misdemeanor animal cruelty charges in pit bull’s death

‘It was an honest mistake’: Owner says miscommunication to blame in the loss of his much-loved dog

MORRISON – A Sterling man man who investigators say abandoned his pit bull and failed to feed or water him, causing his death, is facing a felony charge of aggravated cruelty to animals, and two misdemeanor charges.

According to the charging document filed Wednesday in Whiteside County Court, on Aug. 11, Mosi Harris, 47, “intentionally ... failed to provide good, quality wholesome food and water to his American pit bull terrier,” which starved to death.

But the death of Alpha, whom he loved, was the result of miscommunication between himself and the manager of the apartment he had to leave, Harris said in a phone interview Thursday.

Harris is charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, which is punishable by one to three years in prison, and with misdemeanor cruelty, which is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine, plus court fees.

A hearing has not yet been scheduled.

It’s the second case involving Alpha. Harris first was charged with misdemeanor cruelty to animals on Oct. 24.

According to the Sterling police complaint, from June 10 to Aug. 4, Harris abandoned Alpha, an action that led to his death.

He has a pretrial conference May 23 in that case.

Harris was evicted from his apartment, which he said he had rented for four years, and had to be out by June 1. He hadn’t yet found a place to live, but was on good terms with the property manager, who said he could leave Alpha there for a week or so. The manager left the apartment door unlocked, and Harris went over twice a day to feed the dog, let him outside and take him for walks, he said.

The whole time I assumed he was at Happy Tails. I was crying when they told me [the dog was dead]. It tears me up.”

—  Mosi Harris, Alpha's owner

On Sunday, June 19, at a cookout at his old apartment, the manager told Harris that he needed to take Alpha or the next time he saw the dog, he would lock the door and call animal control to take him.

Harris returned twice the next day, on Monday, to care for Alpha, and again Tuesday morning, but Tuesday night the apartment was locked, and he assumed the dog had been taken to the shelter, he said.

He didn’t find out that Alpha died until October, when the Sterling police officer came to his new home to cite him for the misdemeanor. The property manager later told him that he didn’t realize Alpha was still in the apartment when he locked it, and he didn’t return to the apartment for a month, which is when the manager found the dog dead, Harris said.

“The whole time I assumed he was at Happy Tails,” Harris said. “I was crying when they told me. It tears me up.”

When the officer citing him asked him if he wanted to make a statement, Harris said he told him “it was an honest mistake; it was a lack of communication.”

Until he had to move out, Alpha, whom he owned for seven months, had lots of toys, was walked and played with regularly and otherwise was well cared for; he loved the dog and never would mistreat an animal, Harris said.

He didn’t learn of the new felony and misdemeanor charges until Thursday. He is in the process of finding an attorney, he said.

Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.