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California man avoids prison after attack on tortoise

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA (AP) – A Northern California man avoided prison time on Friday after he drunkenly trespassed at a preschool last year and attacked a pet tortoise named Michelangelo, The San Jose Mercury News reported.

The 42-year-old man was also linked to other break-ins at the East San Jose school, and stole thousands of dollars of items in the days before and after the attack on Michelangelo, a decades-old African sulcata, in January 2021.

The school’s owner discovered Michelangelo bleeding last year after the attack, impaled in the shell with 15-centimetre shards from a wooden garden gate post.

The man had also shoved a rake handle between the animal’s head and leg and broke flood lamps and put the shattered glass on the tortoise’s back, The Mercury News reported. A judge sentenced the man on Friday to two years of probation and mandatory mental health and substance abuse treatment.

He had pleaded no contest to charges of animal abuse, commercial burglary and vandalism earlier this year, the newspaper reported.

The man is now also banned from having any animals for 10 years. His public defender said his client’s behaviour against the tortoise was the result of excessive intoxication, rather than animal cruelty, the newspaper wrote.

The preschool did not return the newspaper’s request for comment on Friday.

Dr Tal Solomon moves Michelangelo, the 70-year-old African tortoise in San Jose, California. PHOTO: AP