GREENSBURG (KDKA) — A man who told police he strangled his dog because it “wouldn’t stop barking” was sentenced on Thursday.

Outside the Westmoreland County Courthouse, animal rights activists gathered, as inside, Jason French awaited his fate.

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He pleaded guilty to killing his 3-month-old dog, Apollo, in his yard because he said the puppy wouldn’t stop barking.

“It took him about three hours, approximately to strangle the dog. He was surprised that it had taken him that long to do so,” said Irwin Police Officer Michael Hooper.

During the sentencing hearing, French’s defense attorney argued that it was a damaged mind that drove the 33-year-old Irwin year old man to commit such a horrific act.

“This case has become a platform for animal rights, but it’s about mental health,” said defense attorney Patrice Nicole DiPietro in the courtroom. “Jason French is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.”

“The issue isn’t his mental illness, the issues is that he chose to not continue his mental illness medication and chose to take LDS, cocaine and marijuana,” said Candy Nelson, of Animal Friends of Westmoreland County.

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Judge Megan Bilik-Defazio sentenced French to 7-23 months in jail, but immediate paroled him for court mandated inpatient mental health treatment.

Walking out of the proceeding, French’s mother asked for people to understand her son is a sick man.

“Not evil. He heard evil voices in his head,” she said.

For his part, French said this leaving the courthouse, “I’m very sorry for what I’ve done, and yeah, I did love my dog.”

In addition to mandated inpatient treatment while on probation, French has $300 in restitution and is not allowed to own a pet during his probation nor stay in a home with them.

He, however, can get another animal once he serves his time.

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