Florida teen accused of setting caged cat on fire and feeding it to his dogs gets no jail time

19-year-old Roberto Hernandez pleaded guilty to one count of felony animal abuse, a third-degree offense, for the crime and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service.


                            Florida teen accused of setting caged cat on fire and feeding it to his dogs gets no jail time

A Miami teen who was caught on camera killing a caged cat by setting it on fire and then feeding it to his dogs was spared jail time. 19-year-old Roberto Hernandez was sentenced to five years of probation and 100 hours of community service by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Nushin Sayfie, much to the chagrin of the prosecutors and animals' rights activists alike.

According to CBS Miami, Hernandez was 17-years-old when he was caught on a surveillance camera pouring a flammable liquid on a caged animal, which prosecutors said was a cat, and then setting it on fire at his family's rural property on the 16600 block of SW 174th Avenue.

Hernandez was caught on video setting a caged animal on fire (Source: Screenshot/YouTube)
Hernandez was caught on video setting a caged animal on fire (Source: Screenshot/YouTube)

During his hearing, prosecutors said, after setting the cat on fire and killing it, Hernandez then fed it to his pit bulls. After the abuse came to light, PETA wrote a letter to Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and asked her to "vigorously prosecute" the case so the now-19-year-old would spend time in jail for the crime.

Her office was seeking a sentence of at least 364 days in jail, as well as another five years of probation but was ultimately left sorely disappointed. During his defense, Hernandez said the animal in the cage was a rabid raccoon that was attacking area farm animals, a claim which Sayfie believed after reviewing the footage of the incident herself.

"I don’t think a raccoon should be treated in that manner," Sayfie was quoted saying by the Miami Herald. "I don't think jail time is appropriate," she added, noting Hernandez did not have a criminal history and also pointing out prosecutors rarely sought out jail sentences for third-degree felony cases for first-time offenders.

Hernandez escaped jail time for his crime (Source: Miami-Dade County Corrections)
Hernandez escaped jail time for his crime (Source: Miami-Dade County Corrections)

Hernandez, who pleaded guilty to one count of felony animal abuse, will consequently receive a sentence of 100 hours of community service. Furthermore, Nayfin also granted the 19-year-old a "withhold of adjudication," which means he will not be considered a felon in the eyes of the law.

However, the judge did rule that Hernandez would have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation in one year and ordered the teen to report to a judge every month. 

Following the sentencing, Rundle released a statement where she expressed her view on the case, writing, "While we are disappointed with the sentence imposed on Roberto Hernandez, which excluded our recommendation he serve time in jail, it is our sincere hope that this young man who brutally caused the torture and death of a defenseless caged cat, will adhere to any suggested psychological or psychiatric treatment imposed by a duly qualified physician."

"As I have said many times, research shows that individuals who commit acts of cruelty against helpless and trusting animals don’t just stop there," she continued. "Many of these individuals move on to commit violent acts against their fellow humans."

(Warning: Graphic Content) Watch the video of Hernandez setting the caged animal on fire here: