By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It was an emotionally charged day in Sherburne County court Wednesday as a Princeton man faced charges that he videotaped the beating and torture death of his girlfriend’s dog.

Anthony Ryan Sather, 24, is facing charges under a new felony animal cruelty law.

In Elk River, protesters gathered outside the courthouse, demanding he face the maximum punishment. But they aren’t the only ones calling for justice for Draco, the dog that was killed.

Nearly 90,000 people have signed an online petition and thousands have liked the Facebook page demanding that Sather be punished.

“We want to make sure that [Sather] gets maximum time and just for them to know that we take it serious,” said Emily Randolph, who helped set up the Facebook page Justice For Draco.

A tribute video posted by Draco’s owner has been viewed on YouTube more than 33,000 times.

Draco’s owner discovered the video of Sather smiling and licking his lips as he beat, tortured and shot her dog to death on his computer.

Her friends still can’t believe what she had to see.

“For her to see what she found, I can’t imagine what she went through,” friend Nikki Reinners said.

The young woman was in court Wednesday, surrounded by friends.

At one point in the hearing, a man in court yelled at Sather “you bottom feeder, there is a special place in hell for you.” He then ran out of the courtroom as the judge threatened him with arrest.

Sather is being prosecuted under a new felony animal mistreatment.

“This is a classic case of extreme animal abuse that needs to be prosecuted to the extent of the law,” said Kerry D’Amato of Animal Folks Minnesota.

Draco’s owner left court without speaking to reporters.

Friends say the support has helped.

“Seeing everyone get together for her and Draco, I think she is really starting to feel the love everybody has for her and Draco,” Reinners said.

Sather also faces felony drug charges.

His court appearance was continued until March. He will remain in custody.

If convicted, the maximum penalty he can face for the animal mistreatment charge is two years in prison. Many activists say that is not enough, but that is double what he would have faced under the old law.

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