Raleigh, N.C. — The plight of a dog set on fire and left to die spurred an effort to make sure that people convicted of animal cruelty in North Carolina can spend time in jail.
Susie's Law, or House Bill 1609, reclassifies the "malicious abuse, torture or killing" of an animal as a Class H felony. That increases the penalties for animal cruelty to a maximum 10-month jail sentence.
The law is a named after Susie, now a 1-year-old pit bull-shepherd mix. As a puppy, Susie was beaten, set on fire and left to die. Susie survived, was rescued and has been adopted. She lost her ears, though, and still bears scars.
Lashawn Whitehead, 21, of Greensboro, was convicted of felony cruelty to animals and sentenced to probation.
Advocates of Susie's Law said they were outraged that state law allowed White to be sentenced only to probation.
"This is a serious offense," said Mondy Lamb, spokeswoman for the SPCA of Wake County. "Beating animals, kicking animals, starving animals to the point of death or beyond should be punished by more than just a slap on the wrist."
Lamb said she has seen equally horrible cases of animal abuse in Wake County. She described the case of Finn, now a 10-month-old pointer mix.
"He was left in a closet to starve to death," Lamb said. "The closet was full of feces. He didn't have food or water, we suspect, for as many as seven to 10 days."
The person convicted of abusing Finn was also sentenced to probation.
Whitehead did receive a two-year prison sentence after being convicted of indecent liberties with a minor and burning personal property, according to state Department of Correction records.
Gov. Bev Perdue is expected to sign Susie's Law Wednesday afternoon. It will take effect Dec. 1.