The former manager of the Newport Friends of the Animal Shelter on Wednesday entered a best interest plea to a charge of cruelty to animals.

Terry Starnes, 44, of Gatlinburg, was arrested in December 2018 by Cocke County Sheriff Armondo Fontes.

The shelter houses surrendered animals from Cocke County, as well as those picked up by Cocke County Animal Control.

The sheriff said a complaint had been filed after pictures of a severely malnourished Red Bloodhound were posted on a social media site.

The dog, Kylar, had been surrendered to the shelter in February, adopted out in March and returned to the shelter later that month by the adopter.

The dog vetting sheet indicated the dog was wormed on four occasions thereafter, and was treated with another medication on eight additional occasions.

Starnes reported he had taken the dog to a veterinarian but did not recall which one and he could not produce any veterinarian records.

The sheriff said officers found some areas of the shelter to be in poor condition and in need of cleaning. Officers also reportedly observed other underweight dogs in poor condition in the shelter.

The case against Starnes was heard by Cocke County General Sessions Judge Brad Davidson.

During the hearing, the defendant told the court he tried to get Kylar to eat but had only limited success.

Anne Fontaine, a board member of the Friends group, testified Starnes was one of the best managers the shelter ever had, working lots of hours at the facility.

Veterinarian Dr. Sandra Manes told the court Kylar was very malnourished, weighing just 31.8 pounds at the time of Starnes arrest, but after six weeks, the dog weighed more than 60 pounds.

An Alford plea, or best interest plea, is done when a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges prosecutors have enough evidence to get a guilty verdict.

Davidson imposed an 11-month, 29-day sentence, ordered Starnes to serve five days in the Jefferson County jail and the balance of the sentence will be on supervised probation. The court also granted diversion for Starnes, meaning the conviction will be expunged from his criminal history if the defendant remains offense free during the probationary period.

The court found the shelter was underfunded, had too many animals, and did not have adequate staff at the time of Starnes arrest.

“I hope everyone is satisfied,” the court said. Davidson added he did not want to “ruin” Starnes life by imposing a stiffer sentence but had to address the fact that “the dog was in bad shape.”