SAN DIEGO — A convicted felon who was overheard laughing as he beat his dog received a rare three-year prison sentence Tuesday for animal cruelty that prosecutors described as torture.
Enrique George Hernandez, a 39-year-old Mexican national living in San Diego, pleaded guilty in March to one count of felony animal cruelty for punching his pit bull terrier, Ozzie, at least 10 times.
Prosecutors argued before San Diego County Superior Court Judge Howard H. Shore that Hernandez deserved jail time for a long rap sheet that included time in federal prison for illegally entering the United States. Dist. Atty. Bonnie M. Dumanis said prison was appropriate "considering the torture that the defendant inflicted on this poor animal."
Animal control officers took custody of Ozzie in August 2005 after a neighbor called to report the dog was being abused. Neighbors told investigators they had heard Hernandez laughing as he beat the 55-pound animal in the yard.
Ozzie was suffering from internal bleeding, a broken leg, broken ribs and had a mark consistent with a cigarette burn on his forehead, said Dawn Danielson, the director of the county Department of Animal Services.
The dog recovered from his injuries and was being rehabilitated for adoption, but he was euthanized in October 2005 after he tried to bite animal control staff, Danielson said.
Hernandez, who has convictions for domestic violence and auto theft, has also served time in federal prison, and was deported in 2003. He faces a federal hearing for violating terms of his probation.
Hernandez's defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Troy Britt, did not return a call seeking comment.
"This is the first time in 25 years I've ever seen anyone sentenced to three years in state prison for an animal offense," Danielson said. "It's really score one for the animals today."