A South Carolina man was given the maximum five-year sentence for animal cruelty after a judge deemed on March 24 that he made his dog's life "hell on Earth."
"I’m not trying to be mean," Circuit Judge Markley Dennis said to William Leonard Dodson during sentencing, reports The Post and Courier, "but I wish I could give you more."
Dodson, 43, was arrested in 2015 after taping his dog Caitlyn's mouth shut with electrical tape after he became frustrated with her barking. Caitlyn was left chained outside with her mouth taped for almost 36 hours. She was able to escape and a good Samaritan called animal control.
The tape was wrapped around her snout so tightly that her tongue became caught between her teeth. According to Charleston Animal Society, veterinarians were unsure if she would pull through.
"This is the most malicious case of animal abuse I have seen in my entire career," said Charleston Animal Society Director of Anti-Cruelty and Outreach Aldwin Roman, according to the group's Facebook page. "To leave this dog in pain, unable to eat or drink and to now leave her in the position where her life is at stake because she may lose her tongue is heartbreaking."
Caitlyn's story went viral and quickly became a rallying cry for anti-cruelty activists, The Post and Courier reports.
"I think this sends a message that ... we're not going to let this stuff slide anymore," said Roman. "We're going to do everything we can within the law to stop this, and then we’re going to go beyond and change our laws and make them stronger."
During Dodson's trial, animal rights' activists filled the courthouse, wearing pins with the dog's face and the message "Justice for Caitlyn."
The judge expressed frustration during sentencing that he could only recommend five years in prison because animal abuse is not considered a violent offense according to state law.
Dodson will be already serving a total of 15 years behind bars on a federal gun charge. The additional five years recommended by Dennis will not extend his total prison time as he will serve both sentences concurrently.
Despite scarring, Caitlyn has made a full recovery. She is still the poster animal for the Charleston Animal Society and often participates in live streams so fans can track her progress.
"She is living the life," said Roman. "And I hope that she will one day forget what she experienced."