Rodney Shoop, 54, of Douglas County was the first adult in Nevada to be sentenced under a new state law making it a felony to maim or torture an animal. Authorities said he shot the cat before maiming it.
He was sentenced Monday by Douglas District Judge Michael Gibbons after pleading guilty to torturing or injuring an animal.
Shoop must also serve five years of probation; attend alcohol treatment and anger management programs; and perform 100 hours of community service at an animal shelter, the Las Vegas Review-Journal (http://bit.ly/OXY4QA) reported.
Gibbons suspended a one-to-three year prison term after saying the behavior by Shoop made "no sense," particularly throwing the cat's head over his fence into the neighbor's yard.
The crime "horrified everyone," the judge said.
Gibbons also banned Shoop from possessing any firearms after noting he had been convicted of a felony involving a firearm 25 years ago.
"You should have never had a firearm," he said. "You cannot kill an animal like you did."
Shoop apologized and said he makes bad decisions when he drinks.
Gibbons, who said he has three cats himself and lives on a ranch, expressed concern for the safety of residents because Shoop was apparently intoxicated when he shot the cat in his yard in a crowded neighborhood.
Gina Griesen, president of Nevada Voters for Animals, had hoped Shoop would receive at least one year in prison as a way to publicize the law and serve as a deterrent to other potential animal abusers.
"It is so heinous what he did," Griesen told the newspaper. "But it is not my job to tell a judge what to do."
She was the primary force behind SB 223, sponsored by Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, that went into effect last October. Under the law, animal cruelty becomes a felony crime, punishable by a one-year to four-year sentence in prison in cases where animals are wantonly tortured or mutilated. Forty-five states now make cases of extreme animal cruelty felony offenses.
The law is called "Cooney's law" after a beagle mutilated by its owner in Reno two years ago.
At the sentencing, Shoop's lawyer Tod Young said his client was an animal lover whose own cat sleeps on his bed every night. He said the stray cat had previously fought with Shoop's pet, which cost him hundreds of dollars in vet bills.
Young said his client has been attending alcohol treatment programs and feels better now than he has in decades. He said medical examinations also showed he suffers from some brain disorders.
In July, two 16-year-old Las Vegas boys were sentenced to serve time in a juvenile center for drowning 2-day-old kittens. They were also placed under court supervision until they turn 21.