American puppy killer gets 9 years

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The Independent Online
Miami - A 37-year-old man has been jailed for nine and a half years in Florida for battering a puppy to death, writes Phil Davison.

Judge Stan Blake issued the final sentence, under Florida's Cruelty to Animals statute, after the case caused uproar among the Sunshine State's animal lovers, then nation-wide after coverage on network television. The court was inundated with letters calling for a tough sentence.

The judge took into consideration the fact that the defendant, Alan Laboy, was an habitual offender, mostly for drug-related crimes.

Laboy was seen by neighbours slamming the gold labrador puppy twice on to a pavement outside his home after its barking woke him up on 4 August 1994. He apologised to the judge, saying: "I would like you to forgive what I've done. That day I was very ill on drugs."

Another judge initially sentenced Laboy to four and a half years after the incident - partly because the crime had violated his probation on drug-related convictions.

In what is referred to here in legal terms as an "enhancement" to the sentence, based on Laboy's "habitual offender" status, Judge Blake this week added a further five years in a state prison and assigned him to a drug rehabilitation programme.

Announcing his ruling, the judge said: "I wish the community would show the same fervent interest for other cases - child abuse, spouse abuse or abuse of the elderly.

"Unfortunately, perhaps we as a society accept violence towards people more than we do towards pets."

A jury had convicted Laboy after only 27 minutes of deliberation. Prosecutors showed them X-rays of the puppy's injuries which they said proved Laboy had slammed it on to the pavement.

The prosecution had called on Judge Blake to "enhance" the sentence by the maximum ten years, which would have meant fourteen and a half years in jail for Laboy.