DECATUR (AP) - A jury convicted a man of misdemeanor animal abuse Friday after he admitted taping his dog's mouth, sealing him in a garbage bag and placing him in a garbage bin to die after being mauled.

Samuel Sanders testified that he got rid of the animal for fear of wrongly being labeled a dog fighter.

The dog, which was rescued by a city sanitation worker, has since been named "Lucky." It lost a leg to infection but has otherwise recovered.

A judge set sentencing for May 17, when Sanders could receive a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $3,000 fine.

Sanders testified that he had two dogs, the one that was injured and a pit bull. He said he came home from work early on Feb. 22, 2006, and later found Lucky with injuries including a broken leg and bites.

"I thought he was dead or almost dead," Sanders said.

He said he wrapped Lucky's snout with duct tape so that he would not make noises, leaving room so that the dog could breathe. Then he put him inside a garbage bag, leaving his head sticking out, and took him to a garbage bin.

Sanders, 27, denied harming the animal and said he panicked "because I was young, I was black and I had a chewed-up dog and a pit bull."

Assistant District Attorney Paul Matthews urged the jury to convict Sanders of felony animal abuse.

"Even if you believe what he tells you, he's guilty of cruelty to an animal in the first degree," Matthews said.

Dr. Steve Osborne, a veterinarian who treated Lucky, told The Decatur Daily it appeared the animal had been in a fight with another dog.

But Sgt. Rick Archer testified that he and another officer searched Sanders' home and found no evidence that dogs were being trained for fighting there.

Archer, however, said Sanders lied in a written statement, initially claiming someone stole Lucky two months before the dog was found in the garbage bin.

Later, Sanders apologized for lying and the way he handled the situation. He said he wanted to take the dog for treatment but he was afraid of being stereotyped as a dogfighter.

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