The Long Branch man convicted last year of locking an 8-month-old pit bull puppy in a small wire cage and leaving that cage in the rising tide of the Sandy Hook Bay in the Highlands was sentenced to a year in prison, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni.

Aaron Davis, 36 was sentenced to one year in New Jersey State Prison which comes after he was found guilty in December of fourth-degree Animal Cruelty.

Davis was also ordered to pay restitution and perform community service.

The dog was originally named "Blaze" and had belonged to the ex-boyfriend of Davis' girlfriend, authorities have said.

River the pitbull
River the pitbull (Ross Licitra)

According to an Asbury Park Press report, the prosecutor said that the ex-boyfriend, Benito Williams, tried to break into the woman's home but Davis stopped him and both ended up in a fight. Davis acted with "malice and depravity" to eliminate an "emblem of his enemy," a prosecutor said in court.

“Abusing defenseless animals is an intolerable act and even more despicable when the animal was abused in retaliation to ‘get back’ at its owner. Had this passerby not been at the exact right place at the exact right time, River would have drowned due to the rising tides,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni said.

The investigation into the animal cruelty conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Division, and the Highlands Police Department began after a passerby spotted a dog in a crate on a small portion of sand between the bulkhead and the water around 6:00 a.m. on July 30, 2018.

The passerby climbed over the ropes, down the rock barrier and onto the sand to rescue the dog, who was later named ‘River.’

Investigators learned that Davis took the puppy following a domestic dispute in the early morning hours and put it in a cage in the rising tide.

Highlands Police responded to the domestic incident and captured video footage of the puppy which helped to identify the dog the following day.

'River' was found whimpering in fearin a cage filling up with waters the tide rolled at Veterans Memorial Park on Bay Avenue in Highlands.

A rescuer and good samaritan by the name of Jennifer Vaz found 'River' around 6:51 am on July 31.

Jennifer Vaz and "River," the dog she found in the ocean off Highlands
Jennifer Vaz and "River," the dog she found in the ocean off Highlands
(Monmouth County Prosector's Office)

Vaz was walking her own dog 'Molly' when she observed something on the water side of the rock bulkhead.

As she investigated she spotted a black wire cage with a small dog cowering inside the cage.

The cage was on a small portion of sand between the bulkhead and the water.

The tide was coming in and the water had reached the cage.

"River” was brought then to the Highlands Police Department who then contacted Highlands Animal Control.

When Animal Control officers responded to the site of the canine’s rescue, they found the cage almost submerged by the rising tide.

Prosecutor Gramiccioni released the good news on the day Davis turned himself in.

This case was prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Amanda Dalton Clark.

Davis is represented by Adamo Ferriera, Esq., of Hackensack.

Previous reporting by Dan Alexander was used in this report.

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