Man Sentenced for Snapping Girlfriend's Dog's Spine

Tuesday, May 25, 2010  |  Updated 9:00 PM EDT
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Man Sentenced for Snapping Girlfriend's Dog's Spine

Libra the dog

A man who killed his girlfriend's dog by snapping its spine — and who was identified from DNA under the animal's claws — was sentenced Tuesday to a year in prison.
 
Prosecutors said they had no idea why Jonathan King, 21, killed the 3-year-old Yorkshire terrier-Maltese mix, a female named Libra.

  King, of Yorktown, stared at a courtroom wall as a family statement was read to state Supreme Court Justice Albert Lorenzo. King killed Libra "with a premeditated, unprovoked, savage act of horrifying cruelty. ... I shudder imagining the fear and pain she suffered," said the girlfriend's father, Steven Levine.
 
King pleaded guilty in March to aggravated animal cruelty, a charge that has been a felony in New York since the passage of "Buster's Law," a 1999 measure named for a cat that was killed when a teenager set it on fire.
 
Prosecutors said King killed the dog "with no justifiable purpose" by yanking its collar hard enough to dislocate its head from its spine on April 6, 2009. They said he had gone to the house at a time when he knew no one would be home.
 
He then hid the dog's body behind a clothes dryer, where one of his girlfriend's family members found it. King also cut away portions of Libra's pillow and part of a laundry basket that had his blood on it, prosecutors said.
 
Police found blood under the dead dog's claws, and DNA analysis performed on it linked King to the crime.
 
The girlfriend, whose name has not been made public, broke up with King after the dog's death. Her father said Tuesday the family considers King "a danger to our family, our community and our society."
 
King fled to Miami after being charged, and his sentence includes paying $1,500 to defray the costs of bringing him back to New York, the district attorney's office said.
 
Under Buster's Law, aggravated cruelty against a "companion animal" is punishable by up to two years in prison. But many cases similar to King's are still charged as misdemeanors, or plea-bargained down to lesser sentences.
 
Among them:
 
— Two months ago on Staten Island, a man who beat his girlfriend's Chihuahua to death pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to three months of weekends in jail.
 
— A Manhattan man was sentenced two weeks ago to three months for kicking his girlfriend's lap dog in an attack police witnessed on security cameras.
 
— In February, another man admitted killing his girlfriend's cat and pleaded guilty to the felony but was sentenced to therapy rather than prison time.
 
Ken Ross, chief investigator for the Westchester Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said that under Buster's Law, prosecutors have to prove a suspect intended death or severe physical harm, "and that's not always easy."
 
In King's case, he said, "This certainly appeared to be premeditated. He knew what he was going to do before he went to the house."
 
Ross would not criticize the one-year jail sentence — half the maximum — but said King "will have to be watched" when he gets out of prison. And he suggested the law could be toughened to allow sentences as long as four years.
 
"Animals are like children, they're the weakest," Ross said. "They have no idea that you're coming at them to hurt them."

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