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Man gets 3 years for throwing dog in traffic

Applause broke out in the court as Burnett was sentenced to the maximum sentence  

SAN JOSE, California (CNN) -- Courtroom observers erupted in applause Friday as a judge sentenced a man to three years in prison for tossing a woman's small dog into oncoming traffic in a bout of road rage last year.

Three years was the maximum sentence Andrew Burnett, 27, could receive after his conviction last month on animal cruelty charges.

"It's my belief that the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors," Judge Kevin Murphy said as he handed down the sentence. "Therefore, I'm denying probation."

Burnett threw Sara McBurnett's 10-year-old bichon frise named Leo into oncoming traffic after a minor traffic accident in February 2000.


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McBurnett said Burnett yelled at her before he reached through the car window, grabbed the dog and tossed him onto the road where he was struck by a car seconds later.

Burnett's attorney said he acted out of instinct after Leo bit him.

Before the sentence was imposed, Burnett apologized for the incident.

"I'm really sorry for what happened," he said. "If there's anything I could ever say or do to bring Leo back, I would."

An apology was not enough for McBurnett, who said people don't understand how painful it is for people whose pets get killed by others.


"I would have gladly taken a bullet than have my dog killed in front of me," she said. "Yeah, the worst thing that could have happened to me just about in the world happened to me. It was devastating. The grief was intense. A lot of people who see me now see someone who is fairly functional and don't understand the depth of pain I experienced in the aftermath of that tragedy."

McBurnett now has another bichon frise, and says she will work to make crimes to animals more punishable by law. She said Burnett should have gotten a tougher sentence.

"I think that a violent crime like this against animals who, next to children, are the most vulnerable residents here on Earth," she said. "I think 10 years is the minimum animal cruelty conviction. I also cannot believe and am very dismayed animal cruelty does not count as one of the three strikes as a violent crime, and that needs to change."


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