ZANESVILLE — Justin C. Smith said he slit a dog‘s throat with a box cutter because he wanted his girlfriend out of his house.

“He was dispatched with honor,” Smith, 32, told Zanesville Municipal Court Judge William Joseph on Tuesday morning. “She brought a diseased, mangy, flea-ridden dog into the house and wanted me to spend my money on it. She bamboozled me.”

Zanesville police officers were dispatched in late June to Smith’s Luck Avenue home and found his girlfriend covered in blood, screaming and crying over the almost lifeless body of 20-pound Midnight, a mixed-breed dog, according to police reports.

The woman told officers Smith had cut the dog’s throat, and Smith admitted to officers he had done it to “get her attention.”

Joseph sentenced Smith to serve 180 days in jail and fined him $1,000 on a charge of cruelty to a companion animal and 60 days in jail and a $500 fine on a resisting arrest charge. The jail terms are to be served consecutively.

Smith scuffled with officers as they tried to arrest him, police said.

Smith, who has been in the Zanesville City Jail since his arrest, told Joseph he needed to get out of jail to pay his rent, bills, water and electricity.

“I want to get out of here,” Smith said.

Joseph gave Smith a chance to explain why he killed the dog after Smith pleaded no contest to both charges.

Smith said he was living with a “drug-addicted” woman who brought drugs and alcohol into his home and then a “discarded dog.”

“It was the only way I could get her to leave my home,” Smith said. “I could think of no other way. I guess I have some regret, but since the woman is out of my house, or at least I hope she is, that was my intent.”

Assistant City Prosecutor Emily Tarbert told Joseph she had received hundreds of emails, phone calls and letters from not just local residents, but also from around the world wanting Smith to get the maximum sentence for the death of the dog.

“He’s one of the worst offenders,” Tarbert said. “He didn’t dispatch the dog with honor. He murdered it. That was a great dishonor. He also had the murder weapon in his pocket when officers arrived.”

Smith argued with Tarbert and told her the dog was “unregistered and unlicensed” and that he told officers where the knife was when they arrived.

“Besides, no animal has rights over a human,” Smith said.

Joseph cut Smith off and told him there was no debate — the dog wasn’t asserting any sort of “right” over Smith. He said if Smith had wanted the woman out of his house, he should have called the police to evict her then taken the dog to the Humane Society.

“I don’t even know what you mean when you say the dog was dispatched with honor,” Joseph said.

Then, Smith told Joseph he has a head injury that doesn’t allow him to make sound decisions and that generally he is a “peaceful man.”

Joseph shook his head and said that was no justification and no animal deserved to be treated that way.

“Slitting a defenseless dog’s throat makes no sense to me,” Joseph said. “To top that off, the conduct towards the police after they get there is not good. Your actions speak louder than your words. Those weren’t peaceful actions. Not that day.”

A small group of protesters gathered outside the courtroom. They represented Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio residents who advocate the passage of House Bill 108, which would make animal cruelty charges felonies and not misdemeanors.

Cris Hughes, who is on the board for WHINNY Horse Rescue in Crooksville, said she is satisfied that Smith got the maximum sentence.

“Animals deserve better,” Hughes said. “Children, animals and elderly are always the ones who get abused. They’re the ones that can’t defend themselves.”

Tina Stanton, of Nashport, also was there to support the Nitro bill and to see that Smith got a stiff sentence.

“I was so disgusted when I heard what happened,” Stanton said.

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