An 11-year-old boy was sentenced Monday to 18 months of probation, 30 hours of community service and intense family and individual counseling for beating a small dog to death with a stick in a north Fort Worth neighborhood.
After the sentence was handed down, the boy, who is not being identified because he is a juvenile, rushed out of the juvenile hearing Monday morning with a jacket over his head and his parents beside him.
“I think it went well,” Cookie’s owner, Jennifer Knittel of Fort Worth, said shortly after the hearing, which lasted just over an hour and was closed to the public.
The boy killed Cookie, a small Cavalier King Charles spaniel-poodle mix, on May 11 and left him dead on a porch across from where the dog lived.
During the sentencing hearing, the boy read a brief letter apologizing to Knittel.
“He said he didn’t set out to kill him,” Knittel said. “Things happened.”
Knittel said she was worried about the boy, whom she described as “cute,” but who showed no emotions Monday morning in the Fort Worth juvenile courtroom.
Knittel also read a letter to the boy and his family at the sentencing.
“You are a minor with some major problems,” the letter says. “You may fulfill your sentence but you may not. A lot of that will depend on your parents, on whether you want to do what is right, on whether they want what is best for you.”
In addition to probation, the boy was ordered to perform 30 hours of community service, which will be established by Tarrant County juvenile officials. He also was ordered to have no unsupervised contact with animals.
“Almost every day he will be going to some type of counseling,” said Sam Jordan, a spokeswoman with the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.
Associate Judge James Teel found the boy guilty in late July of delinquent conduct/animal cruelty with an enhancement for the use of a deadly weapon. The charge, which was heard in a Fort Worth juvenile court, is equivalent to a felony in adult courts.
The boy was sentenced Monday after completion of a court-ordered psychological examination, a neuropsychological examination and a risk assessment of the boy’s potential for violence toward people and animals.
Knittel said Monday that the boy was described as a low risk, but that he did have anger issues.
Officials told Knittel that Cookie died from a crushed skull and a severed spinal cord.
Knittel said she was told that the boy had been attacked by Cookie. But Knittel said Cookie and her other dog, Sam, had never gotten loose in the neighborhood and Fort Worth animal control officials have said they had no record of any problem with the dogs.
Knittel said she rescued Cookie from a shelter five years ago.
She said Monday that she believes that the boy got Cookie and another dog out of her back yard, played with them and then became angry with them, eventually killing Cookie.
Knittel said she received a letter of apology from the family through a Fort Worth detective two days after the attack.
“Dear Ms. Knittel, please accept our sincere condolences to you and your family on the death of your dog,” the letter says. “For whatever reason our son felt threatened by it and thought it best to defend himself, when he thought it would bite his leg.”
The family wrote that the boy was riding a scooter when he encountered Cookie and that he didn’t mean to kill the dog.
Witnesses told police that they had seen the boy kicking at the dog.