Michael Ray Howard

OGDEN — A judge has issued a warrant for a man accused of stuffing a litter of puppies in a bag and dumping them in a trash bin behind a Riverdale fabric store.

Michael Ray Howard, 35, didn't show up for hearings in 2nd District Court Monday to face animal cruelty and drug charges, so a judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

"I think a no-bail bench warrant's going to get him in," said Judge Roger S. Dutson.

Howard's attorney, Daniel Drage, said he was unable to reach his client. He mailed Howard a notice and tried to call him on the phone as the hearing was getting under way. One of the phone numbers for Howard was disconnected.

"I've made several calls. He hasn't responded," Drage told reporters outside of court.

When it became apparent Howard wasn't going to show, Drage withdrew as his legal counsel. He said afterward it was a matter of economy, since he did not know when his client would next appear and did not wish to keep showing up for weekly court hearings to address the status of the case. If Howard is arrested again and wants to have Drage represent him, Drage said he would do so.

Howard is charged with 13 counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, a class A misdemeanor, and one count of animal cruelty, a class B misdemeanor. He is accused of putting 14 puppies in a bin behind a Riverdale store. The surviving dog, a Jack Russell Terrier-mix named "Precious," is doing well, her owner said.

"She's growing like a dang little weed. She's loving as possibly be," said Aaron Woodward, who came to court sporting a "Henry's Law" T-shirt, a reference to a push to strengthen Utah's animal cruelty laws.

Woodward said he wanted to see what would happen to Howard. Animal rights groups have been watching the case and planning to file court briefs pushing for a maximum sentence in the case. They also used the case to lobby state lawmakers for changes in Utah's animal cruelty laws.

"I figured he might pull something like this," Woodward said of Howard's no-show.

Howard is also facing drug charges in connection with a Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force bust. He is charged with second-degree felony possession of a controlled substance; class A misdemeanor drug and paraphernalia possession and driving on a denied license, a class C misdemeanor. His preliminary hearing on those charges was also scheduled for Monday.

"My witness was ready to go," deputy Weber County Attorney Branden Miles said.

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