After being struck repeatedly with a sharp object, probably an axe, the Connett family's dog is recuperating at home, and a neighbor is accused of hiring a canine killer.
Louie, a cocker spaniel mix, returned home Tuesday, two days after being hacked in the face, shoulders, hip and legs, police say.
"He has all kinds of stitches on the inside and staples on the outside," Marie Connett says. "They told us he lost a lot of blood."
Connett's neighbor, Roberta Ficek, was arrested Tuesday night in an alleged plot to pay 29 year-old Denny Brown to hurt the dog. She has been charged with solicitation to commit animal abuse.
Brown was arrested Wednesday afternoon and charged with an aggravated misdemeanor for allegedly abusing Louie.
Ficek claims that the dog barked too much. "Ask the neighbors, ask the other neighbors how much that dog whines and barks," says. "I never meant for him to get hurt," she adds.
Police Lt. Kelly Willis says no matter what the circumstances, the attack was "an act of cowardice."
"We have proper procedures to handle these things," Willis says. "We have a barking dog ordinance in the city of Des Moines."
Connett says she kept the dog chained in her fenced-in yard and was surprised to learn of Ficek's arrest. She says Louie never bothered anyone including the children that Ficek cared for while running a child-care center out of her home.
The dog only barked "whenever he was hungry, or when we'd get home and he'd want attention," Connett says.
Louie belongs to Connett's eleven year-old son B.J. and is devoted to the boy. Despite his serious injuries the dog kept trying to follow the child around the house after coming home from the vet's Tuesday night.
Marie Connett adopted the dog from a shelter last year. "I'm trying to hang on to him," she says.
Before coming to live with the Connett's Louie had a pretty hard life. He had previously been hit by a car and still has a pin in his hip from the accident.
His family cannot imagine why someone would so viciously attack a pet, but sadly it's just the latest incident of blatant animal abuse.
Ever since a March 1997 attack at a Fairfield, Iowa animal hospital in which 23 cats were beaten with baseball bats, 16 of them fatally, animal-rights activists have pushed for tougher penalties for animal abuse.
All measures have failed at the Statehouse. Among the top concerns was that such laws might create tougher penalties for animal abuse than for domestic abuse.
The Humane Society's Linda Reider says combating animal abuse is not just about protecting pets. Studies have shown that people who abuse animals are more likely to beat their spouse or children.
"People don't act violently in a vacuum...animal cruelty is a sign that a person needs help," she says.
In 27 states animal abuse is a felony. In Oregon, which is considered to have one of the toughest cruelty lawsthe maximum penalty is five years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
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