Justice has finally come for Caitlyn, a dog whose abuse made national news.
Friday, a judge sentenced Caitlyn’s abuser to five years in prison, the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty in South Carolina. The judge called the dog’s ordeal “hell on Earth,” Unfortunately the prison term will not extend William Leonard Dodson’s stay behind bars because he is already serving 15 years on a federal gun charge.
Still, animal advocates say the penalty shows a strong message that animal abuse will not be tolerated.
“I’m not trying to be mean,” Circuit Judge Markley Dennis told the North Charleston resident, “but I wish I could give you more.”
The picture of Cartland’s snout, scarred from the tape her abuser wrapped around it spread all over the internet nearly two years ago. Caitlyn became an international sensation and a her name a rallying cry for anti-cruelty activists. The sentencing on a felony charge for the mistreatment of animals ended Friday. Too often the state’s cruelty laws fail to bring enough punishment to those who deliberately mistreat pets, Charleston Animal Society officials said.
“I think this sends a message that … we’re not going to let this stuff slide anymore,” said Aldwin Roman, the society’s director of anti-cruelty and outreach. “We’re going to do everything we can within the law to stop this, and then we’re going to go beyond and change our laws and make them stronger.”
Prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed to allow Dodson, a 43-year-old felon, to serve the prison term at the same time as the federal sentence he received a day earlier. He’d been found with drugs and a loaded pistol months ago; before his arrest in Caitlyn’s case.
The dog’s agony was recounted on Friday for a final time in the courthouse. Hordes of supporters filled the room. Many wore pins with her face and the words “Justice for Caitlyn.” In spring 2015, Caitlyn’s original owner, a drug dealer, handed her over to Dodson. Dodson got frustrated by the pup’s barking. He taped Caitlyn’s mouth shut that May and left her chained outside. He teeth dug into her tongue.
She was in a lot of pain.
“I had to do it,” he told others, according to Assistant Solicitor Ted Corvey. “She wouldn’t shut up.”
The Staffordshire bull terrier mix escaped, and someone found her with a bound and crumpled snout. Somehow authorities were able to link the electrical tape on her muzzle to a piece found by a crate at Dodson’s place. Then he was arrested. Caitlyn was taken to the Animal Society, where veterinarians unraveled the tape. She let out a scream, Roman said. It had been around her snout for about 36 hours.
“I remember seeing the fear in her eyes,” Roman said Friday. “That was 36 hours of torture.”
“I would call it hell on Earth,” the judge interrupted.
Caitlyn’s Story Goes Viral
The social media world watched her road to recovery. Caitlyn now lives with a permanent foster family who loves her, and gently brought her back to health. People still ask about her. She appears on the Twitter and Facebook pages that made her famous. She’s a celebrity now.
“The amount of calls, letters my office has received … is staggering,” Corvey said. “Caitlyn has become somewhat of a symbol to the animal rights community.”
The prosecutor told Judge Dennis during the sentencing in downtown Charleston to “send a message.” In closing the hearing, the judge noted that the charge is not considered a violent offense because of how the law is written, and vowed to work to make it tougher to abuse animals.
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