US & Canada

US man charged with Chihuahua death faces life in jail

Bud Wally Ruiz
Image caption Bud Wally Ruiz is due to appear in court to enter a plea next week

A man in the US state of California faces a possible life sentence for allegedly killing his wife's Chihuahua.

Bud Wally Ruiz, 53, gave the puppy to his wife as a Mother's Day gift, but now he is charged with animal cruelty.

Ruiz has a criminal history stretching back 30 years, with four convictions for assault with a deadly weapon.

Under California's "three strikes" law, the courts are bound to consider a 25-year sentence for criminals convicted of multiple violent felonies.

However, they do have discretion to impose a lesser sentence if they decide the new offence is less serious.

'Not a monster'

Police responded to a late night emergency call on 12 May, and arrived at the couple's home in Gilroy, south east of San Jose in Silicon Valley, to find the puppy dead and the suspect gone.

Prosecutors allege an argument flared up after Ruiz got home drunk.

When his wife, Marcella, asked him to leave, Ruiz threw a travel bag containing the dog across the room, say police.

Marcella Ruiz accused her husband of assault, though she later retracted the allegation.

She subsequently told the local newspaper, Mercury News: "He was devastated. He's not a monster."

The Santa Clara County district attorney's office has charged Ruiz with two counts of cruelty to animals and one count of battery on a spouse.

"The courts weigh animal cruelty as a very serious offence," said Sgt Justin Matsuhara of the Santa Clara police department.

Ruiz is due to appear in court to enter a plea next week.

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