In August of 2009, Lashawn Whitehead was at home with his baby, his mother, and his girlfriend’s three-month-old puppy, Susie. Susie, a German shepherd-pit bull mix, jumped onto the couch where Whitehead’s baby was resting. According to Whitehead’s mother, when Susie jumped onto the couch, Whitehead became enraged. He grabbed Susie by the fur, took her outside, and dripped lighter fluid over her. Whitehead then held her down and beat her for about fifteen minutes, breaking her jaw and teeth, before finally setting her on fire. Two weeks later, Susie was found nearly dead in a Greensboro, North Carolina, park, with second and third degree burns over sixty percent of her body.
Whitehead pled guilty to burning personal property and to felony animal cruelty. The crime of burning personal property carried a sentence of six to eight months in prison; however, the crime of felony animal cruelty brought only a sentence of probation, with a possible sentence of four to five months in prison if the terms of probation are violated. This trivial sentence sparked a wave of controversy and debate. Citizens sent letters and emails to state legislators, resulting in Susie’s Law. This new law increases penalties for certain animal cruelty acts in North Carolina.