Should NC Have Mandatory Jail Time for Violent Animal Abusers?

In August 2009, a 3 month old mixed breed puppy named “Susie” jumped on the couch in her NC home.  This, to anyone who has ever owned a puppy or at least has reasonable expectations of puppy behavior, is not in any way surprising.  What is outright shocking is the reaction of the then 20 year old owner, Lashawn Whitehead.

The man severely beat the puppy, breaking her jaw and teeth, tied her up and set her on fire.  Susie had burns covering more than 60% of her body and her ears were burned off completely.  She was abandoned, left for dead in a park, but managed to survive for two weeks even while maggots infested her wounds.  Susie was found by a good Samaritan and the Guilford Co Animal Shelter cared for the dog while she made an amazing recovery with a foster family.  Susie has since been adopted permanently (by a dog bite victim!) and is doing well.

Mr. Whitehead turned himself in to authorities in November:

Whitehead has been charged with felony animal cruelty and burning personal property. If convicted on both charges, he faces almost four years in prison.

His mother claimed Mr. Whitehead had explained his actions as being protective of his infant child who he said was on the couch at the time Susie jumped on it.  The mother also claimed he was in need of mental health treatment.

Last month, Mr. Whitehead was sentenced to probation:

Under North Carolina law, the maximum penalty for animal abuse is probation.

[Susie’s new owner, Donna] Lawrence has developed a team to push the state legislature to make animal abuse carry a prison sentence.

I hope Mr. Whitehead is receiving the mental health care he needs and that his baby and everyone in his household remains safe. And I hope he never, ever gets another pet.

16 thoughts on “Should NC Have Mandatory Jail Time for Violent Animal Abusers?

  1. Yes.

    How long before he “loses it” with the newborn baby? The man clearly needs mental help and everyone around him should be protected from his instability (if he’s in jail, that would work).

  2. Jail is NOT the place for mentally ill people..Jail only makes them WORSE.. This man obviously needs LOTS of help.. if he is a psychopath.. then incarceration in an appropriate setting is what is called for

  3. OMG – that man should be in a secure mental institution – with NO chance of getting out. it is BULLSHIT that he “reacted” – tying the poor wee dog up and setting her on fire is hardly a spur of the moment decision. There is such a malaise in some stratums of society – I’ve been reading too many stories like this.

  4. Psychological, behavioral and anger management therapy are what is needed for this man. Jail time won’t help, unless as part of an entire program of “punish” (jail) and meaningful rehabilitation (not jail).

    I certainly hope he gets it. I imagine he has problems with people as well.

  5. This kind of reaction is little different from a city deciding to go “search and destroy” on specific breeds of dogs.

  6. Even if I bought the part about him having some actual psychiatric condition, his reaction was beyond the pale. In cases like this where someone only gets probation, as opposed to a felony conviction, my opinion is that the person should be legally enjoined from ever “owning” an animal again. That won’t stop the person from progressing to treating two legged creatures in the same way but there are harsher laws on the books to deal with that type of abuse. (I know enforcement of the order is a separate issue but it does make a statement about values.)

    Also sad about this story is that others, presumably who do not have mental health issues, knew about what happened and did nothing to stop it or to report it. The dog suffered immeasurably and I am amazed she survived.

  7. This isn’t a case of someone who “snapped.” He took a long time to carry out this sadistic behavior. My concern also is for any baby or human who will be around him in the future.

  8. I don’t buy this ‘mentally ill’ business. If he is that unstable, what is he doing around a baby? This kind of outright abuse and torturous cruelty should be a felony with required jail time.

    1. Lots of mentally unstable people have children! It’s a little naive to think that our government is capable of finding all the really mentally unstable people and removing them from the general vicinity of infants. :)

  9. I would think that what this particular person needs intense mental health, not jail time, maybe house arrest. We should not be putting people in jail who may have anything from depression to a conduct disorder which leads to an incident as this as we do not want a repeat at a later date. Should they be jailed for life?

  10. Really? How often?/ We read about the cases because many are now public as the AR groups rally to connect horrific and real animal abuse with neglect and “hoarding ” ( not even classified) and eventually to meat eating at all.
    While I ABHOR actions like this man took.. I don not believe that he will be a good prospect for a regular prison.. where more criminals are made everyday. Drugs and/ or alcohol may have been involves..
    let’s face it.. more people are cruel to their own CHILDREN than to animals to the point of starving them.. and killing them in heinous ways. and even those do not get jail time in some cases.. let’s make sure we as animal lovers first and foremost keep our perspective.

  11. You know, as 1 out of 4 Americans has a mental illness, I call bull. I have disabling mental illness and i have never once hurt any animal.

  12. JAIL TIME!!! Like seriously…of course the mother is going to take up for her son…and if that were the case that the baby was on the couch, there is nothing rational about beating the dog to a bloody pulp, breaking the teeth, and setting the dog on fire, that hardly looks to me like “being protective”, thats just plain abusive…kinda ironic how people say dogs are mans best friend…if you don’t want the animal, get rid of it in a proper manner, there are tons of people who like animals…I have no sympathy for this person…and probation, is unacceptable…

  13. yes throw them in prison. that creep that did that to that dog beat it set it on fire shoud go to prison. i will take his baby and burn it and throw it around see if he likes it. i hate animal abusers
    may he and his baby and mother rot in hell

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