California Man Gets Life Sentence for Beheading Dog

As word of yet another human beheading by Islamist terrorists surfaces, this story via GoogleNews provides an interesting contrast:

Life for beheading dog (Herald Sun)

A man who beheaded a german shepherd he had named after his girlfriend has been sentenced to 25 years to life under California’s three-strikes law. James Abernathy, 43, was convicted in June of felony animal cruelty for killing the dog — which he had named Marie — after a fight with his girlfriend. Abernathy would have faced a maximum of six years, if not for two prior convictions in 1986 for assault with a deadly weapon. “The community is much safer after the judge’s ruling,” said Deputy District-Attorney Heather Brown.

Defence lawyers claimed Abernathy suffered from schizophrenia. But the judge ruled he was sane when he committed the crime in January, 2002.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. paladin says:

    I love animals, but am I the only one who thinks 25 years is excessive?

  2. Anjin-San says:

    Why should we value the life of an animal less then of a human? People wonder why the world is so full of violence. The answer is simple. Until we learn to cherish ALL life, we will have war, murder, etc.

    We assign a greater value to our lives than to that of other creatures. By what measure? For all we know, God may regard the flounder as his supreme creation, and humanity as a grave dissapointment.

  3. Tom says:

    Good. Deserves every chalk mark on the wall of it. Animals aren’t around to be something to take your frustratings out on.

  4. Meezer says:

    Animal lover that I am, I too find 25 years excessive. On the other hand, as far as the safety of society goes, that kind of animal cruelty is a bellwether for violent behavior against people.

  5. paladin says:

    Good point, Meezer.

  6. Boyd says:

    The guy’s an obvious nutcase, but it would seem that rather than receiving the psychological help he needs (and if it takes 25 years to deliver it, oh well), he’s just going to be locked up with who-knows-how-many other psychotics.

    Anjin-San, I don’t know about you, but I’m confident that God regards human life well above that of a fish. And don’t ask for proof. The basis of spirituality is faith. If it were provable, it wouldn’t be faith.

  7. Anjin-San says:


    All of God’s creatures are sublime, beautiful and, in my view, of equal value. Why would God create any “lesser” creatures?

  8. mns says:

    I don’t think 25 years is excessive at all. I also can’t help but wonder how the other inmates will treat him, once they find out what he’s in there for; gut instinct tells me if there are other dog-lovers in there with him, he’s in for a really long twenty five years (oh, who are we kidding; he’ll be up for parole in five), or a really, really short rest of his life.

  9. Boyd says:

    Anjin-San: God created lesser creatures for the benefit of the greater creatures: humans, the only creatures with souls.

    Either we’re just like other animals, many of which prey on other animals so we’re no different, or we’re superior to them, where it’s reasonable for us to put them to our service.

    Either logically or spiritually, there’s sufficient justification for humans to put other animals to our own purposes. But the reason we would punish someone for beheading a dog would be based on morality.

  10. Anjin-San says:


    Humans are the only creatures with souls? And you know this how?

  11. skh says:

    Anjin-San believes that using soap with Triclosan is a crime against God. Those germs have SOULS, I tell you. Anjin, it is most helpful when positing some wild-assed opinion that you don’t invoke God, else you demonstrate your ignorance of His teachings as conveyed by almost any Bible that you can find. If, perhaps, you are of a polytheist religion, then your confusion is understandable, although not forgivable. Animals are on this earth for the benefit of humanity. Dogs and cats and mice and horses, while warm-blooded and furry, are not humans…as much as you seem to otherwise wish. While cruelty is to be abhorred, hitting a dog with your car (for instance) does not rise to the level of vehicular manslaughter anywhere in this nation where rational adults are in charge of things. If you reside in California, your results may vary wildly and unpredictably.

    Animals are not humans. By definition, if nothing else.

  12. Mark says:

    Two prior assaults with a deadly weapon before this hideous thing to do. Sorry, I am with mns, 25 years certainly is fitting.

    In fact, this is exactly what the “three strikes” law is supposed to do: lock up a dangerous felon for life. It’s not like he stole a piece if pizza or a twinkie. He beheaded a defenseless dog, and assaulted others in previous cases. Good riddance.

  13. Anjin-San says:

    Actually skh, I am more or less of a Buddhist. The Bible btw, is the word of man, interpeting God, not the word of God. How many Gospels were excluded from the Bible. How many times has it been rewritten? Was King James speaking for God? I doubt it.

    It is sad, but predictable to see someone like skh attack those who disagree with them. No respect for the views of others, and not much respect for life.

    Not much in the way of logic, either. If someone kills either another person or a dog by accident, it is not a crime. If someone is driving in a reckless manner or is drunk and they kill either a person or a dog (who is probably someones beloved pet) they probably face some sort of legal sanction even outside of California.

    It is a shame that people have to hold themselves as somehow above either those who hold different religious views, or above other creatures, who manage to live upon this beautiful planet God gave us without poisioning it. Here in California we refer to them as sufferers from low self-esteem.

  14. Anjin-San says:

    A question for the soul experts… I am sure most of us have had a dog or a cat who we knew without question loved us, or perhaps two pets who clearly loved each other. Now then, how can a creature with no soul love?

  15. Mark J says:

    Before you ask how a creature with no soul can love, you first have to prove that it can love.

  16. Anjin-San says:

    Well Mark, I have had pets that I know loved me. If you have not had the same experience. perhaps you should take a good look in the mirror and ask why.

    How do you know if a human loves you? Humans lie. Cats don’t…

  17. McGehee says:

    Humans lie. Cats don’t…

    According to Christianity, one of the things that makes humans godlike (and proves they have souls) is their knowledge of the difference between right and wrong. I would submit that being able to lie is not itself relevant to whether or not one has a soul — but the ability to feel guilty about it is a pretty good indicator.

    My wife has had cats all her life. They have, to a one, learned that she can be fooled by their behavior. They lie to her — and don’t feel one little bit guilty about it as they eat their second dinner of the night.

    Which is why, if she’s been working evenings, she always asks me whether I’ve already fed the cats. If I haven’t, I’ll tell her the truth — because I don’t like being a liar.

  18. Cousin Dave says:

    I’d like to make a point about the sentence. I don’t know exactly how the laws of that state work, but the point of the three-srikes laws is:

    The guy was not sentenced to life for killing the dog, as horrible as that was. He was sentenced to life for being a habitual felon — by definition, three felony convictions. It’s not like the guy didn’t know he had the two previous ones. The purpose of the law is to be a last resort to remove permanantly the people who simply can’t be trusted to be out in society without harming other people. It’s a crude mechanism, but barring the invention of foolproof psychological screening, it’s the best we’ve got.

  19. LJD says:

    Key Point: “harming other people”.

    The three strikes law equates three time murderers or rapists with three time convicted drug abusers. Sometimes all three counts occur in one (the same)offense.

    Worse yet, one time murderers and rapists get out of prison sooner than three time drug abusers.
    What’s worse?

  20. Anjin-San says:


    According to Christianity, or at least the Old Testament, adulterers should be stoned to death. Is this something you advocate, or are you just cherry picking and holding to the elements of Christianity that happen to support your world view?

    btw, cats don’t lie about dinner. they are just asking for more… hardly a “lie”>

  21. tim says:

    Anjin-San, your argument about animals that love is based on a very shallow definition of love. Your idea of love is simply that the cat or dog licks your hand or lets you pet it or comes when you call it, but that isn’t love. Your pet “loves” you because you feed it and take care of it. I have have a pond outside and when I walk out the back door of my house, the fish come to the surface and swim around. Now do these fish really love me? Did they come to the surface to see my happy smiling face? Did they just want to show me how excited they are that I am home? Hardly, they expect food, plain and simple. If someone else walked out the backdoor of my house with a bat and a frying pan the fish would still be right to the surface swimming around. They hardly “love” me, they are simply conditioned: when someone walks out the door, it might mean that food is coming. That’s all they care about.

    True love is much more than that. True love does things for the benefit of others without the expectation of something in return. I do not change my 3 month old’s diaper because I expect him to say “Ohh thank you Daddy” or to give me a big hug, I do it because I love him. I don’t expect him to do anything for me or to give anything to me. This type of love is something that an animal is simply not capable of.

  22. Louis says:

    Why else would animals be on this earth but to benefit us, humans, in all ways nessessary to help us to survive. This person that chopped the head off of his dog should not have taken his anger out on his dog like this. However, the government should not have interferred in how he had seen fit to treat his property. Because that is what the dog is, or was, his property.
    As to whether animals have souls or not? Well, we don’t know that. But we do know that no animal has come out and talked to us and asked us not to treat them as our property.