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November 4, 2003

PETA urges jail time for dog neglect

Deputy D.A. says she doesn’t need PETA to tell her to vigorously prosecute the case of a Sams Valley couple

By DAMIAN MANN
Mail Tribune

An animal rights group is urging the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office to seek jail time for a Sams Valley couple charged with neglect of 41 dogs.

"Incarceration would be appreciated and encouraged," said Dan Paden, cruelty caseworker for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in Norfolk, Va.

Paden’s organization also is asking for psychological evaluations and mandatory counseling of Anita and Brian McKenna, who pleaded not guilty last week to 41 counts of second-degree animal neglect, a misdemeanor.

PETA sent a letter to the district attorney’s office Monday, pointing out that these types of neglect cases often are part of a pattern of abuse.

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"People who demonstrate such blatant disregard for life and desensitization to suffering can pose a definitive risk to the people and animals with whom they come in contact," the letter said.

The maximum penalty for neglect is six months’ jail time, but Rachel Bridges, deputy district attorney, said she isn’t sure yet whether her office will push for that.

"They (PETA) don’t need to urge me to vigorously prosecute," she said.

After animal control officials seized the dogs in September, at least 19 were euthanized because they had severe heartworm or tumors.

Paden said he wasn’t critical of the district attorney’s office for not charging the couple with a more severe crime, but he wants to make sure it vigorously prosecutes the case.

"We’ve run into plenty of jurisdictions that don’t prosecute and are apathetic," he said.

Bridges, who hadn’t yet seen a copy of the PETA letter Monday, said the evidence supported the charge of neglect.

"If I had evidence of another crime they would be charged with it," she said. "There was no evidence they beat the dogs."

If the couple are convicted, they will be prohibited from possessing a domestic animal for five years, she said.

Steven Johnson, a Medford attorney hired by the McKennas, said his clients aren’t sure if they can raise the $20,000 for a security bond that would preserve the animals so they aren’t euthanized or placed in homes.

If they pay the bond and are cleared of the neglect charges, they could take possession of the animals when the case is settled.

The letter from PETA urged the district attorney’s office to take every measure necessary to ensure the McKennas are prohibited from possessing animals in the future, including the nine dogs remaining in the animal shelter.

The case is scheduled to go to trial April 6.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail mailto:dmann@mailtribune.com?subject=PETA urges jail time for dog neglect



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