Animal rights activists are cheering after a man from Albany, New York, was sentenced to two years imprisonment for beheading a stray cat.
"So many times these people receive a slap on the wrist and they do not serve serious jail time," activist Donna Farnsworth told WTEN. "I'm happy to see that the judge did the right thing."
John Gehrlein, 46, was sentenced Aug. 3 after being found guilty of aggravated animal cruelty. On Dec. 21, 2016, police responded to a call regarding a dead cat found outside Gehrlein's apartment. Gehrlein admitted to killing the cat, which was an orange male tabby estimated to be around 2 to 3 years old.
Investigators say the cat's head was barely attached to its body by its spinal cord.
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His case went to the State Supreme Court, where Justice Thomas Breslin imposed the maximum two-year sentence, according to the Albany Times Union. Prosecutors argued that his actions were "indicative of his potential for future violence."
It's unclear why exactly he killed the cat. When the judge asked if Gehrlein would like to comment, Gehrlein said he was unsure if he should say anything. After briefly consulting with his lawyer, he decided to stay quiet.
As part of his sentence, Gehrlein will also be prohibited from ever owning a pet upon his release.
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Farnsworth and other animal rights activists were heavily involved throughout the trial, and sent a number of letters to the judge pleading with him to find Gehrlein guilty.
Farnsworth believes that Gehrelin's case "is really going to set a precedent" for animal abuse cases in the future.
Farnsworth had been following the case since the beginning.
“It made me completely sick to my stomach in December when I heard about this heinous act," Farnsworth told WTEN. "I don’t believe [2 years is] enough but I’m very happy to see that they finally did the full extent of the law."
On the day of Gehrelin's sentencing, Farnsworth was the only activist at the courthouse, but she says that she represents an entire movement of advocates who have been watching the case closely.
“I’m here representing a lot of people who unfortunately couldn’t be here,” she said. “They have to be at their jobs and they’re waiting for my call and it’s going to be a good phone call when I get out of here.”
After his hearing on Aug. 3, Gehrlein was taken back to jail. He is currently being held in special protective custody. His lawyer declined to further elaborate as to why.
Sources: WTEN, Albany Times Union / Featured Image: Gabriel Millos/Flickr / Embedded Images: Albany County District Attorney's Office via Albany Times Union, Emily Masters/Twitter