Friday, April 28, 2006

National Animal-Rights Group Urges Counseling For Dog Gunman

I couldn’t agree more. As I’ve said before, those who abuse or kill other animals soon will be heading for humans. It’s a sickness within them that must be addressed. Abusers are abusers no matter the species they affect.

Here are a few articles on the connection between animal abuse, mental problems and future abuse of humans.



By Chris Keegan - The Sun Staff

CHARLESTOWN - A national animal rights group wants a King’s Factory Road man charged with shooting his neighbor’s dog to undergo a psychological exam and mandatory counseling if he’s convicted of the crime.

In a letter to Charlestown Solicitor Peter D. Ruggiero, Dan Paden of the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals asked the town prosecutor to push for an evaluation and therapy should Richard Heines, 63, of 820 King’s Factory Road, face sentencing in the death of a female Rottweiler.

On March 27, Heines told Patrolman Philip B. Gingerella that he shot neighbor Walter Bentley’s pet with a .22 calibur rifle earlier that day because the animal had chased his chickens and growled at him in the past, according to police reports.

The dog - which reportedly wandered from Bentley’s yard minutes before its owner heard gunshots on Heines’s property - suffered bullet wounds to the head, nose and shoulder, and was later put down by the patrolman.

"The viciousness shown in shooting helpless animals must not go unpunished," Paden wrote in PETA’s April 25 letter to Ruggiero. "Area residents have reason to be concerned. According to leading mental health professionals and law enforcement agencies, perpetrators of violent acts against animals are often repeat offenders who pose a serious threat not only to other animals but to the community as a whole."

"Because repeat crimes are the rule rather than the exception among animal abusers and given the violent nature of his alleged actions that day," Paden added, "we implore your office to take every measure necessary to ensure that Heines, if convicted, is prohibited from contact with animals and to immediately seize any animals who may remain in his charge."

Charlestown Police have charged Heines with two criminal misdemeanors - mistreating and unnecessarily torturing a domestic animal. He is expected to appear in Fourth Division District Court today for a pre-trial hearing in the case.

Paden said PETA’s involvement in animal cruelty cases varies. The Norfolk, Va.-based group addressed Ruggeiro with their concerns after receiving about a dozen phone calls and e-mails from readers of The Sun, he said.

"Typically, our first step is to write a letter to prosecutors with our concerns and recommendations," Paden said. "If we get the sense that the case is not taken seriously, or if a weak plea deal is in the works, we may encourage those who have expressed concern to write to prosecutors or to the judge, or to attend hearings. In the past, that has certainly been effective."

Though PETA’s letter is addressed to Ruggeiro, Charlestown Police Lt. Jack Shippee said Assistant Solicitor Jennifer Sternick is handling the department’s case.

Heines is currently facing up to 11 months in prison on each misdemeanor count. Shippee said he could have been charged with the malicious killing of an animal - a felony count that carries a maximum of two years in prison and up to a $1,000 fine, according to state statute.

"We realize that he could have been charged with a felony, but the Attorney General’s office would have handled the case from there," Shippee said. "The reason we chose to do two misdemeanors is so we can have more control over the sentencing."

Additionally, Shippee said a felony charge levied against Heines would have required the dog’s body to be exhumed. A necropsy would have had to be performed by the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, with the remains stored in a freezer until District Court proceedings concluded, he said.

"Taking into account the owner’s feelings, it was not the right thing to do," Shippee said.

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