MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Miami man accused of killing a caged cat by setting it on fire, then feeding it to his dogs, received probation time Friday morning at his sentencing hearing.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Nushin Sayfie sentenced Roberto Hernandez, 19, to five years of probation, plus 100 hours of community service.
Hernandez was 17 when he was captured on surveillance video pouring a flammable liquid on a caged animal, believed to be a cat, and setting it on fire at his family's rural property on the 16600 block of SW 174th Avene.
When the cat was dead, he fed it to his pit bulls, said prosecutors who were asking the judge to sentence him to at least 364 days in jail, plus five years of probation.
Hernandez claimed the animal was a rabid raccoon that was attacking area farm animals. The judge reviewed the surveillance video and said she believed Hernandez, who has no criminal history.
Hernandez pleaded guilty to one count of a felony animal abuse.
She granted Hernandez a "withhold of adjudication," which means Hernandez won't be considered a felon. He'll also have to undergo a psychological evaluation in one year, and must report to a judge every month.
Animal rights group PETA even sent a letter to Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, asking her office to 'vigorousely prosecute' the case so he would receive jail time and receive psychiatric care.
A spokeswoman for PETA told CBS4's Peter D'Oench that she was "very disappointed" by the sentence and felt "a slap on the wrist like this endangers the entire community."
Fernandez-Rundle released this statement following the sentencing:
"While we are disappointed with the sentence imposed on Roberto Hernandez, which excluded our recommendation he serve time in jail, 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.
As I have said many times, research shows that individuals who commit acts of cruelty against helpless and trusting animals don't just stop there. Many of these individuals move on to commit violent acts against their fellow humans."
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