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Garrett Kaplan sentenced for felony animal cruelty 

Update Nov. 20: Garrett Kaplan, 24, of Paso Robles, pled no contest today to felony animal cruelty and was sentenced to serve time in jail. He was given a one-year sentence, 90 days of which are to be carried out in county jail, minus 13 days time already served.

The sentencing follows allegations that he was under the influence of alcohol, walked to the high school, doused the then-five-month old steer named Panda with kerosene, and then lit him on fire, according to a New Times SLO report.

Kaplan underwent a psychiatric evaluation as part of the court proceedings, the results of which were not released, the report said. During the preliminary hearing, however, Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy did say the evaluation found that Kaplan suffered from severe alcohol addiction.

During the lead up to the case’s resolution, several people attended hearings to lobby the court to award Kaplan the maximum punishment possible, according the report. Many of Panda’s supporters wore lime green shirts that read “Punish Animal Cruelty.” The supporters said they wanted to make sure that Kaplan received a sentence that reflected the crime.

Garrett Kaplan charged with felony after burned steer discovered at Paso High

Garrett Kaplan

Garrett Kaplan

Original report Sept. 4: Garrett Kaplan, 24, of Paso Robles is set to appear in court on Sept. 11 at 8:30 a.m. at the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court for a preliminary hearing. Kaplan was arrested and charged with felony animal cruelty in May following an investigation that was launched when the Paso Robles Police Department received a report of animal cruelty at Paso Robles High School in the agriculture barn on Oct. 26, 2013.

According to the initial police report, the animal belonged to the reporting party’s son, who was housing his 5-month-old steer at the school barn. When the reporting party went to the barn to feed the animal, it was discovered that the animal had been badly burned. According to the report, the suspect had entered the barn sometime between Friday, Oct. 25 at 4:30 p.m. and 8 a.m. the following day and set fire to the steer for unknown reasons.

Kaplan was placed under arrest on May 23 without incident and booked at San Luis Obispo County Jail and was later released on bail.

Although the animal — named Panda — was badly injured, he survived and, according to a report on, was still going to be shown by the student at the California Mid-State Fair in July. After what the report called “tense negotiations,” Marcy Christmas of Ventura County paid Panda’s family $10,000 for the steer to be moved to Animal Place. Animal Place has a 600-acre sanctuary in Grass Valley and a 60-acre animal shelter in Vacaville. While Animal Place has compassion for all life, its emphasis is on farmed animals.

According to Diane Dieterich of San Luis Obispo, many Central Coast animal advocates have written Judge Michael Duffy, who is presiding over the case, to not allow “this kind of sadistic animal torture to go unpunished.” She said they want Kaplan to receive the maximum sentence for felony animal cruelty, and that those in support of Panda will be wearing lime green to Kaplan’s sentencing.



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