By Alisa Mullins
When Michael McLeod pleaded guilty to shooting and killing his Norfolk, Virginia, neighbor's dog, Rex, because he was annoyed at the dog's barking, he may not have thought he'd get a long prison sentence for cruelty to animals.
But he was facing Circuit Court Judge Karen J. Burrell, a self-described "judge who has compassion for animals." She handed down the maximum sentence: 11 years for felony cruelty to animals, discharging a firearm in a public place, and failing to appear in court (McLeod dodged his original sentencing hearing in 2003 and was on the lam for seven years).
McLeod will serve five years behind bars, with six years suspended. If he violates the terms of his probation after being released, he could serve that extra time too.
"When judges hand down sentences like this, they deter people from being cruel to animals," PETA Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch told a reporter. They also deter people from being cruel to people, as there is a known link between cruelty to animals and violent crimes against humans.
If you know any people who leave their dogs or cats outside unattended, please share Rex's story with them. It only takes a few minutes for animals to become victims of people with short fuses and long rifle barrels.