Miami, FL – A Florida man accused of setting a live cat on fire and feeding it’s burned corpse to his pack of pit bulls won’t serve any time in prison.
Roberto Hernandez, 19, was sentenced to five years of probation and 100 hours of community service for horrifically torturing the animal to death, the Miami Herald reported.
Hernandez was 17 years old when he forced the stray feline into a small cage, doused it with an accelerant, and tossed lit matches onto it, prosecutors said.
When the defenseless animal burst into flames, Hernandez helped himself to a drink, and watched it writhing in pain, surveillance footage showed.
After the cat burned to death, he fed it’s charred remains to his pit bulls, according to prosecutors.
A tenant who lived on the property said she watched Hernandez kill the animal, and said she was positive the creature was a cat.
“This was a brutal case,” Assistant State Attorney Nicole Garcia told Circuit Judge Nushin Sayfie during Hernandez’s court hearing on March 8.
Garcia urged the court to sentence him to 364 days in jail due to the “atrocious nature” of his offense.
“Even if he was unaware of the statute criminalizing animal cruelty, it should be instinctively known to the average man of his age that burning an animal alive is wrong,” she told the court, according to the Miami Herald. “It appears he has no regard to the pain and suffering of animals.”
Hernandez did not deny having burned the animal to death, but claimed it was actually a rabid raccoon that had been attacking other animals in the rural area, WFOR reported.
His attorney, Miami-Dade Assistant Public Defender Kevin Cobb, said that Hernandez came from a troubled family, and that he was forced to drop out of high school so he could help out with the family farm, according to the Miami Herald.
“Roberto is a young man on the precipice of adult life, who has never been arrested and has shown himself to be a loving child, a responsible caretaker and law-abiding citizen,” said Cobb, who urged the court to sentence him to probation.
“I find it curious that in this case the state is seeking jail time when apparently human victims don’t warrant the same approach,” Judge Sayfie said, as she sentenced Hernandez for felony animal abuse.
The judge also said she believed that the tortured animal was actually a raccoon.
“I don’t think a raccoon should be treated in that manner,” she added. “I understand that you’re helping with your family’s farm. I understand that raccoons have rabies at that time. I understand what the motivation and the mindset may have been.”
“Going forward, it is not okay,” the judge told Hernandez.
Judge Sayfie also opted to withhold adjudication, which precludes Hernandez from being designated as a felon, the Miami Herald reported.
Hernandez completed a psychological evaluation prior to sentencing, the judge noted.
“It is our sincere hope that this young man who brutally caused the torture and death of a defenseless caged cat, will adhere to any suggested psychological or psychiatric treatment imposed by a duly qualified physician,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement.
Fernandez Rundle said she was “disappointed” by the sentence Judge Sayfie handed down, and noted that it is not uncommon for offenders who commit acts of violence against animals to progress into committing violence against people.
“Research shows that individuals who commit acts of cruelty against helpless and trusting animals don’t just stop there,” she said. “Many of these individuals move on to commit violent acts against their fellow humans.”