Franklin County man sentenced to 15 months for killing his two dogs

Published: Nov. 2, 2023 at 12:51 PM EDT
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - A Franklin County man has been sentenced for killing his two dogs.

Despite facing up to ten years in prison, Terry Michel was sentenced by Judge Tim Allen to 15 months in jail with credit for time already served.

In February, Michel was arrested and charged with two counts of felony animal cruelty, one count of filing a false police report.

Michel was convicted of shooting and killing the two black lab dogs, Colby and Caleb, February 7 in a remote area near Prillaman Switch Road. Police say he then called 911 to report they had been stolen near Waid Park.

“I know what I did was wrong and I accept responsibility for it,” said Michel during the sentencing hearing.

In October, a jury found Michel guilty of two counts felony animal cruelty. Judge Allen ruled Michel is also guilty of a misdemeanor charge for falsely reporting to police.

During the trial, prosecutors reported Michel admitted to shooting the dogs to save his relationship with his wife Rhonda Michel. During the hearing Thursday, Rhonda told the court she is moving forward with a divorce. Michel said he hopes to save their marriage through counseling.

“She’s the love of my life. I’ve loved her all my life even before I met her,” said Michel.

Michel’s sister took the stand and said she would be willing to take in her older brother. Karen Anderson said she would be willing to give away her dogs to her son for Michel. She described him as a model citizen who served the country in the military for 26 years.

“I knew that something had to be wrong for him to have done that,” said Anderson.

The defense said Michel suffers from PTSD, depression, and anxiety. He said Michel’s health has been affected while being in prison. The commonwealth said this case sets a tone for how authorities expect companion animals to be treated in the county.

Franklin County’s Humane Society director is disappointed in the outcome.

“We wish it would have been at least half of what he was facing, for the torture and the murder of these two lives,” said Anita Scott.

One of the dogs, Caleb, had been adopted at the center just a month before being killed.

“Colby and Caleb were definitely victims of domestic violence,” added Scott. “And we just hope that in the future, any animals that are in that position, justice will be found for them.”

Judge Allen ordered Michel to follow certain conditions upon being released. Some of them include 18 months probation, not contacting Rhonda until she authorizes it, not owning or living with a companion animal, and starting a program through the VA’s office.