MIAMI - More than three years ago, Miami-Dade police officers arrested Julio C. Lopez for animal cruelty. They found his four horses were suffering from varied stages of starvation.
The South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals restored the horses to good health and gave them up for adoption, but they wanted Lopez punished
"Please don't let the suffering of these horses be in vain," Laurie Waggner, an SFSPCA investigator in the case, said during the sentencing hearing Friday.
After Lopez's attorneys managed to get 16 continuances, the trial started earlier this month. A jury convicted Lopez, 58, on four misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, and on Friday Judge Dawn V. Denaro sentenced him to 20 days of house arrest.
Denaro, a former prosecutor, also ordered Lopez to serve 100 hours of community service and comply with two years of probation. Lopez plans to file an appeal.
"No true horse lover would ever allow his animals to suffer such obvious abuse," State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. "The court agreed that this was not some form of carelessness but the crime of animal cruelty."
Fernandez Rundle added that she looked forward to further partnerships with the SFSPCA.