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'Cooney's Law' Brings Stricter Penalties For Animal Abusers
'Cooney's Law' Brings Stricter Penalties For Animal Abusers

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AIR DATE: July 24, 2012

In Nevada, animal abuse is now charged as a felony, meaning it carries the same weight and potentially the same degree of punishment as a domestic violence conviction.

This new law was put into effect for the first time last month when a pair of Las Vegas teens were tried for drowing two kittens in a cup of water. They were sentenced to thirty days in juvenile detention, plus supervision until they turn 21.

This stiffer sentencing requirement for animal abuse is the result of the passage of “Cooney’s Law,” named after a shelter dog that had been tortured and killed by its owner.

Gina Griesen, President of Nevada Voters for Animals, authored Cooney’s Law. She says that originally Cooney’s abuser – who had tortured and killed the dog with a box cutter - wasn’t even arrested by the police who discovered the crime.

“In fact,” says Griesen, “If it had not been for the animal control officer, that guy would have never gotten the misdemeanor. It wasn’t until the animal control officer actually pushed for a request for prosecution that the guy was even arrested later on.”

Greisen says she will push for even stricter penalties for juvenile perpetrators of animal abuse, but acknowledges that children who abuse animals are often the product of their environment. She says that was the case with the teens that drowned the kitten.

“They lived in a home where the dad thought it was OK. There were weapons in the home,” says Griesen. “If the parents think it’s OK, and that’s the way the kids were raised, then they don’t see that they’ve done anything wrong.”

Animal control officer Victor Perea agrees that where an animal is abused, a culture of abuse is often pervasive throughout the home.

“We’ll a lot of times show up because a neighbor saw an animal get injured, then we show up and one of the spouses has a black eye, one of the kids has a black eye,” says Perea. "Clearly it’s not just the animal, it’s just (the animal abuse that) was seen.”

Although it is unsurprising that people who are abusers of humans are also abusers of dogs, it’s actuallly not the torturers of animals who are the most frequent subjects of complaint to the Humane Society, but rather pet owners who are “loving the animals to death.”

“I think that animal hoarding absolutely has to fall under the animal cruelty laws for a number of reasons,” says the Humane Society’s Adam Parascandola. “It’s probably the most common of all the complaints we receive here at the humane society, even more than puppy mills.”

Parascandola believes animal hoarders should be monitored and a limit placed on how many animals they can own, while Griesen believes that animal hoarders should be kept away from animals entirely and receive psychological treatment.

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    COMMENTS:
    My first thought listening was 'who the hell are these people and why? Why? Why would you do this to an innocent of any kind?' I was one of the women that couldn't leave for numerous reasons and wouldn't leave without them. I got out with my 2 dogs thanks to very good friends. The ex would threaten me with things like: I will drop her from the balcony and kill her and the unborn pups. She would hide and shake under pillows for a couple years after we left for any loud (TV or actual) verbal situation. Also, she is still weary of men. As, I should say, so am I. Luckily I'm one if few that made it out, physically intact with my "kids". There is something fundamentally wrong with society if you cannot connect these tragedies and think either one is in any way acceptable. I hugged my "kids" harder and fed them a great treat after listening to this. Funny but, thank you for your truth and insight into the ugly things in life as well.
    MercedesJul 24, 2012 19:58:34 PM
    I am sick to my stomach after hearing this segment on knpr last night. Especially about the little guinea pig pet, whos little teeth were pulled out with pliars. I nearly had to pull off on the side of the road I was shaking with disgust and anger. I wanted to vomit. I am a child of a home where my father would beat my little dog in front of me as MY punishment. He never laid a hand on me until I was about 12. He would pull my mother around the house by her hair. I spent so many nights sleeping in the car next to her because we were afraid to go in the house. She finally left him when I was 14. 14 years too long but she did it. We left knowing he could harm us. I left me cat, but finally went back after a year to get him. He spent a majority of that year hiding under the couch. I'll never know why... makes me feel awful even though I was a child and afraid. I know that these sadistic people exist. After he died I was talking to my aunt, his sister. She told me that when he was little he would kill little animals for fun. HE killed a litter of kittens my aunt found when she was 6. He did it to get back at her for something.
    NatalieJul 24, 2012 12:47:24 PM
    Animals are not ours to torture or kill for food, sport, clothing, or experimentation. I'm vegetarian mainly for animal rights; but I also feel healthier, and it's way more environmentally friendly too.
    Roy RendahlJul 23, 2012 14:19:31 PM
    No form of animal cruelty should be taken lightly, as it is an indication of a problem that might later escalate into bigger crimes against humans and property. Our society needs to take responsibility for raising a future generation of compassionate, responsible and caring individuals who will protect rather than harm the vulnerable. Desensitization seems to be a growing problem among our youth. Furthermore, perhaps we should also consider the animals who are abused and tortured in the food, fashion and research industries rather than choosing to be selective with our compassion.
    Annoula WylderichJul 23, 2012 11:16:01 AM
    Cruelty to animals can be a symptom of brain chemical imbalance, or other brain problems. Persons convicted of animal cruelty should undergo testing for these potential problems and perhaps get treatment, at least where treatment is possible.
    Ron FinkJul 23, 2012 11:10:18 AM
    I am fully in support of holding animal life and welfare as precious as human life. In some ways, animals, being so vulnerable and dependent on people, need particular protection. But punishment is only a response, after the fact. I work with a volunteer organization, Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, that has a number of outreach programs to teach children how to handle and care for dogs and cats. Education is essential! Compassion can be learned if taught by example. I would love to see additional programs to introduce animals to children and children to care for animals.
    Catherine DalinisJul 23, 2012 10:48:42 AM
    People who harm animals should be incarcerated... animals are helpless, just as a small kid. Someone who is cold enough to harm an animal can be cold enough to harm a person.
    Debra MartinezJul 20, 2012 18:01:05 PM
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