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Man who hurt dog sentenced

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A man who blinded his estranged wife's puppy in one eye with a leaf blower and burned the animal in a 200-degree oven for five minutes will spend the next six months in jail.

Third District Judge William Barrett on Monday sentenced Marc Christopher Vincent, 36, to a year in jail but suspended six months. Barrett also ordered Vincent to get a mental-health evaluation and follow any prescribed treatment and medication regimens.

"I don't like people who abuse animals," Barrett said. "I don't like people who abuse children. Animals and children are vulnerable."

Vincent had previously pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated animal cruelty, a class A misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail. A second identical charge was dismissed as part of a plea bargain.

Barrett also imposed 24 months probation; ordered Vincent to stay away from his estranged wife and her dog, as well as any other animals; and ordered a $500 fine and $986 in restitution for veterinary bills.

The dog, Henry, a black Chihuahua-mix, lost his left eye due to the leaf-blower incident and had some of the claws on his feet fused together by the oven's heat, but otherwise seems to be doing well. He was about six months old when the oven incident took place.

Vincent's estranged wife, Rhonda Kamper, brought Henry to court Monday, and Barrett let her bring Henry to the bench and hold him up up so the judge could check the dog.

Vincent's lawyer said her client has no criminal history and, after the oven incident, immediately enrolled in a counseling program for individuals with mental disorders. Vincent told the court he wanted to apologize to the public, and also his family and his friends for causing them embarrassment.

"I know what I did was wrong," Vincent said. "I am getting mental-health help."

Kamper told the judge she was afraid to be around Vincent, even in the courtroom. "I do have a protective order against him. Just seeing him here today — my heart just pounds," she said.

Kamper also questioned the sincerity of Vincent's apology, since he said he was sorry to everyone except her. During the hearing, Barrett brandished a sheaf of letters from animal lovers who were outraged by what happened to Henry.

"This is all because of you," the judge said, shaking the thick packet of letters. "Your conduct was just horrendous."

Barrett said what troubled him most was a letter from Kamper, who described how Vincent had hurt the dog almost daily and showed no remorse at home after the incidents.

Outside the courtroom, Gene Baierschmidt, director of the Humane Society of Utah, said he expects a bill making intentional torture of an animal a third-degree felony to be introduced in the next legislative session. It has been brought forward twice before, but got nowhere due to fears it would interfere with the work of farmers and ranchers.

This bill would not affect "accepted husbandry practices" and would not influence farming, ranching, rodeo or hunting activities, Baierschmidt said.

"We think this is serious crime, and when animal abuse goes on in the home, there's child abuse or domestic abuse (involving an adult partner) in many of these cases."

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com