Judge sentences Utica woman to jail and probation for abusing dog

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 1, 2021

 Animal activists hold up signs outside the court in Mount Clemens regarding  Utica resident Amber Sunde’s animal abuse case.

Animal activists hold up signs outside the court in Mount Clemens regarding Utica resident Amber Sunde’s animal abuse case.

Photo provided by Rose Adkins


UTICA — The Utica woman who repeatedly threw her puppy in a river, causing it to nearly drown Jan. 4, was sentenced to six months in jail and probation June 23 in Macomb County Circuit Court after her request to move her case to Macomb County Mental Health Court was rejected.

During the January incident, the Utica Police Department responded to a call reporting that a woman was throwing a dog into the Clinton River multiple times. Utica police found a woman, Amber Sunde, 26, holding a small, 6-month-old wet dog that appeared to have suffered trauma.

Officials said the puppy, named Lux, had suffered numerous injuries, including a broken leg and a fractured skull. The puppy also previously had suffered other injuries, including a broken front leg.

During Sunde’s court date June 23, Judge James Biernat sentenced her to serve two years of probation and six months in the Macomb County Jail with credit for three days. Sunde was ordered to report to jail by 6 p.m. June 25; she was eligible to be housed in the jail’s mental health unit. Upon release, she will be required to work 30 hours per week. She must complete 60 hours of community service, and she must pay restitution to Detroit Pit Crew, which has cared for Lux, in the amount of $640.72. She cannot own any animals, Biernat ordered.

“Jail time is great. I personally think it should have been longer,” Kendra Briggs, a member of an animal activist group, stated on Facebook.

Sunde was originally going to be sentenced last month; however, that was delayed so that she could seek to have her case heard in Mental Health Court. If she was allowed to do so, her charge would have been reduced to a misdemeanor. Sunde had pleaded guilty to the charge of animal torture in the third degree April 1.

Even with the recommendations by two therapists to be admitted to mental health court, she was denied.

Utica resident Rose Adkins, another animal activist, said that the sentence wasn’t very much in terms of punishment, but it was a positive.

“This sentence is considered a victory. A huge thank you and shoutout to everyone that stood up and spoke for Lux. We are also happy to report that Lux has been adopted and is doing well at this time,” she said via email.

She said that while watching the court proceedings, Sunde’s lawyer, William Barnwell, said the dog is only considered property under the law.

“This is why this needs to be changed in Lansing. As long as animals are considered property it’s like saying they don’t feel, breathe and are not important, but to many people, animals are like family,” Adkins said. She said she plans to work with other activists to change the law.

Rosanna Basilisco, of Utica, said she is an activist to speak on behalf of voiceless animals.

“People would call her insane because how could someone really do something this barbaric and go out of her way to continuously hurt an innocent animal who wasn’t asked to be born. All of this all the way around falls on human error. To an average person this is insane, but to use a legit medical term like this is not OK,” she said in an email.

She said the sentence is nothing in comparison to what it should have been.

Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido stated in a May press release that Sunde was charged with the most severe charge she could be charged with and that the judge would have discretion to sentence Sunde to jail time.

Attempts to reach Sunde’s attorney and Lucido for comment on the sentencing before press time were not successful.