GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — An online petition by animal rights activists is asking a Grand Junction judge to reject probation and impose a harsh sentence against a man who tortured and killed a dog.

Joseph Nelson, 18, pleaded guilty April 19 to aggravated cruelty to animals, in exchange for a deal calling for a probation sentence. 

He was arrested last November after his mother’s 20-pound mixed-breed dog, DeMayo, was found by a passer-by hanging from a pedestrian bridge over the Colorado River, reported the Daily Sentinel.The dog’s internal organs were cut out and an eyeball was missing, according to his arrest affidavit.

The petition, by a group called Hands 4Paws, asks Mesa County District Judge Richard Gurley to impose the maximum penalty allowed by law.

“We also request that (Nelson) not be allowed around companion animals for a minimum of five years and that he has successfully completed anger management counseling,” the petition said.

As of Monday morning, 2,974 people had signed the petition circulating on

District Attorney Pete Hautzinger declined to comment on criticism of the plea agreement in Nelson’s case, saying prosecutors will explain their position at sentencing.

Nelson’s mother said her son was a methamphetamine user and she didn’t know where he’d been living, the affidavit said. She told investigators she wanted to file charges against her son for killing her dog.

According to the arrest affidavit, a witness said Nelson had become angry and started hitting the dog.

The witness said Nelson put DeMayo on a leash and began swinging him around by the neck a dozen times, hitting the dog’s head into the ground, the affidavit said. Nelson was also accused of kicking the dog repeatedly.

The witness said he believed the dog was dead at that point, because he couldn’t see it moving or breathing.

The witness told police that he was severely upset by Nelson’s brutality, but when he tried to intervene, Nelson attacked him, too, the affidavit said. The witness left the home, saying the last thing he saw was Nelson walking north from the house, dragging DeMayo along the ground.

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