Metro Weekly

Arlington man accused of throwing dogs off balcony could avoid additional jail time

If defendant abides by certain conditions of release, the charge against him would ultimately be dismissed

Zachary Hanson, Arlington, Dog
Zachary Hanson — Photos: Arlington County Police Department, Instagram

An Arlington man who was accused of killing dogs by throwing them over an apartment balcony may not end up serving additional jail time under a proposed plea agreement.

Zachary Hanson, 27, of Arlington, was charged with animal cruelty resulting in death for allegedly tossing two dogs from a fifth-floor apartment balcony at 1401 N. Taft Street, in Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood, on April 27, 2020.

Police who were called to the scene say one dog belonged to Hanson, and the other to his roommate. Both dogs were rushed to veterinary facilities, but later died from their injuries.

According to a statement of fact filed in court, Hanson was detained without incident, but told officers that he had previously been diagnosed with anxiety and had not taken his medication. He also allegedly said he had smoked marijuana prior to the incident.

He reportedly told police he wanted to repair his relationship with his roommate and felt the only way to do that was to kill the dogs.

Both the roommate and Hanson’s boyfriend told police at the time that Hanson had not been acting like his normal self and had possibly been experiencing a mental health crisis at the time, according to ARLnow, a local news website for Arlington County.

Under the plea agreement, dated Dec. 7, Hanson would enter an Alford plea — in which a defendant does not admit to the actual commission of a crime, but concedes that the evidence presented by the prosecution would be likely to persuade a judge or jury to deliver a guilty verdict.

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The judge approved the plea and scheduled sentencing for Feb. 12, according to records from Arlington Circuit Court.

Typically, under Virginia law, animal cruelty is considered a “Class 6” felony, which could carry anywhere from 1-5 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.

But under the plea agreement, Hanson would avoid jail time if he adheres to certain conditions upon release — such as completing substance abuse evaluation and treatment, mental health evaluation and counseling, taking any necessary medication, and completing 100 hours of community service — the charge would be withdrawn and ultimately dismissed.

He would also be prohibited from owning or having unsupervised contact with animals, except those owned by family members.

The deal also calls for him to pay about $1,800 in restitution, including payments to the owner of the second dog killed in the incident and to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, according to ARLnow. Any violation of those terms would violate the plea deal and could result in prison time.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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