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Woman who saved tortured golden retriever says Arizona needs tougher animal-cruelty laws

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For weeks, she could hear the bloodcurdling screams echoing through her Tempe apartment complex.

Heather Frazer desperately tried to find the source of the cries because she knew an animal was in trouble. After several attempts, she found the right apartment and peered through a gap in the blinds.

“That was when I saw like a little ball of orange fur on the ground,” Frazer said, beginning to choke back tears. “It was the worst scream that I’ve ever heard in my life.”

She said she caught a glimpse of a man beating the puppy with a metal rod — over and over again, she said.

Frazer called Tempe police, who entered and found a tiny golden retriever with multiple skull and cheek-bone fractures, swelling in both eyes, multiple cuts on his front shoulder and on top of his head, and a broken canine tooth.

Police also found two cats in the apartment that appeared to be beaten. One cat’s eye was detached from its socket, according to media reports at the time.

Shundong Hu, the man Frazer said she saw in the apartment, was indicted on charges of cruel mistreatment of an animal, a Class 6 felony, and two misdemeanors for failing to provide medical treatment to an animal and disorderly conduct.

Hu, who pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to stand trial in April.

If he’s convicted, the felony charge could be changed to a misdemeanor by the court and carry a much lighter punishment, due to Arizona's existing animal-cruelty laws.

The potential penalty would be greater for killing a lamb or a cow without the owner's permission.

Are Arizona's animal-cruelty laws weak?

Animal advocates, including the Arizona Humane Society and Frazer, said that difference is why Arizona lawmakers need to close what they call the state’s “animal-abuse loophole.”

They are asking the Legislature to pass Senate Bill 1295, which would toughen the penalty in severe cases of animal cruelty by making it a Class 5 felony, the same penalty as killing livestock illegally.

The court cannot change a Class 5 felony to a misdemeanor and a conviction would carry a presumptive sentence of 1 1/2 years, compared with one year for a Class 6 felony.

Frazer said the violence she witnessed, peering through the blinds that day in January 2017, appeared intentional.

MORE: Pet rescue owner accused of animal cruelty after horrific video surfaces

"It does not match the type of crime that I saw," Frazer said of the current penalty. “He was torturing it weekly, several times a week. He tortured it so many times."

An attorney identified as Hu's representative in court filings declined to comment about the case on Thursday.

It appears state lawmakers are taking the issue to heart: On Thursday, a panel in the state Senate voted 6-1 to advance the bill after hearing graphic, emotional testimony from prosecutors and pet owners.

Stiffer penalties for 'egregious' cases

The bill's sponsor, Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, told the panel about another incidence of cruelty that he said shows the need for tougher penalties in "egregious" cases.

In that case, a Phoenix man was sentenced to 90 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to killing and decapitating a puppy. He left the puppy's head on the dining-room table for his girlfriend to see because he was angry at her for talking to another man.

“These are the really serious offenders who probably have mental problems, too," Kavanagh said, stressing that the tougher penalty wouldn't apply to lower-level cases of neglect.

The bill would apply to cases where a person "intentionally and knowingly" subjects a domestic animal — defined as a mammal kept as a pet — to cruel mistreatment. It also applies to cases where a person kills someone else's pet without permission.

Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, cast the lone vote against the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Quezada said increasing penalties, including up to six months more jail time, won't deter animal abuse. He said lawmakers should instead look for ways to provide mental-health treatment for offenders.

MORE: Closing shelter will make it harder for families to adopt pets, opponents say

Several other lawmakers and the Arizona Cattlemen's Association also raised concerns that the bill could have unintended consequences and lead prosecutors to charge people who kill a dog in self-defense or because it is trying to harm livestock.

Kavanagh assured lawmakers that isn't the intent and said he would work on an amendment to clarify those exceptions.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, a proponent of the bill, told lawmakers that current law has allowed many abusers — some who have beaten animals to death with hammers and baseball bats or shot horses at point-blank range — to see minimal or no jail time.

The bill now advances to the Senate Rules Committee, for a standard legal review, and then the full Senate for a vote.

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Queso is a handsome little guy estimated to be about 2 years old and weighing in at about 12 lbs. He's a Chihuahua blend that was an owner turn-in at another shelter because the family said they didn't have time for him any more. Queso is housetrained, is a snuggler, loves to give hugs, and he has luxuriously soft fur so he's extra cuddly. Queso has lived with cats and dogs. Volunteers at the shelter say he's an all-around good guy! Queso is living at Friends for Life's adoption center and is waiting to meet his new family! Queso is neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and licensed, and his adoption fee is $150. A special note – Friends for Life's current adoption center will be closed February 15 and 16 to move into their newly built adoption center. The official new shelter opening date is February 17 at the new location – 952 W. Melody Avenue in Gilbert. If interested in Queso contact Friends for Life at 480-497-8296, e-mail [email protected]
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Tortilla is a domestic short-haired Torti cat about 2 years old. She's super sweet and a tad bit spicy as far as her personality. She is an outgoing and social girl and is quite playful. Tortilla's hobbies include making "biscuits" and interactive play with her people. Her adoption fee is just $95. Tortilla is patiently waiting at Friends for Life's adoption center for a family to adopt her. At Friends for Life Animal Rescue, all animals are altered, vaccinated, microchipped, de-wormed, and cats are tested for FELV/FIV. If you would be interested in offering Tortilla a home, contact Friends for Life at [email protected], call 480-497-8296, or visit them on line at www.azfriends.org for additional information.
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This is Jay, a 6-year-old Chihuahua mix. He loves dog cookies, hot dogs and is great at catching peanuts in his mouth. Although he can get a little anxious he's easily comforted. It's recommended for him to meet all children before going home. To meet Jay, visit the Arizona Humane Society’s Campus for Compassion at 1521 W. Dobbins Road in Phoenix. His adoption fee is $135 and includes his neuter surgery, current vaccinations, a microchip and a free wellness exam with a VCA Animal Hospital. For more information, call 602-997-7585 and ask for animal number 572315.
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This is Lota, a 6-year-old domestic longhair. He’s a bit shy, but given time he will warm up to people. To meet Lota, visit the Arizona Humane Society’s Petique at Norterra at 2450 W. Happy Valley Road, Ste. 1149 in Phoenix. Lota’s adoption fee is $60 and includes his neuter surgery, current vaccinations, a microchip and a free follow-up wellness exam with a VCA Animal Hospital. For more information, call 602-761-2973 and ask for animal number 574430.
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This is Boogie, a 5-month-old Chihuahua puppy. He’s very friendly. He even smiles, but is a little shy so he'll just need a little extra time with you. To meet Boogie, visit the Arizona Humane Society’s Campus for Compassion at 1521 W. Dobbins Road. in Phoenix. Boogie’s adoption fee is $450 and includes his neuter surgery, current vaccinations, a microchip and a free follow-up wellness exam with a VCA Animal Hospital. For more information, call 602-997-7585 and ask for animal number 573916.
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This is Nala, a 4-year-old domestic shorthair. She loves attention and face rubs from her humans. She like catnip toys and treats. To meet Nala, visit the Arizona Humane Society’s Petique at Norterra at 2450 W. Happy Valley Road, Ste. 1149 in Phoenix. Nala’s adoption fee is $60 and includes her spay surgery, current vaccinations, a microchip and a free follow-up wellness exam with a VCA Animal Hospital. For more information, call 602-761-2973 and ask for animal number 574195.
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This is Peanut, a 6-month-old Whippet mix. He enjoys bacon treats, playing with stuffed toys and sitting in laps. It’s recommended that he meet all children before going home. To meet Peanut, visit the Arizona Humane Society’s Campus for Compassion at 1521 W. Dobbins Road in Phoenix. Peanut’s adoption fee is $400 and includes his neuter surgery, current vaccinations, a microchip and a free follow-up wellness exam with a VCA Animal Hospital. For more information, call 602-997-7585 and ask for animal number 572186.
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This is Latte, an 8-year-old domestic shorthair. She’s very social and loves attention from her humans. She enjoys lap times is has a mellow and sweet attitude. To meet Latte, visit the Arizona Humane Society’s Arizona Humane Society’s Campus for Compassion at 1521 W. Dobbins Road. in Phoenix. Latte’s adoption fee is $50 and includes her spay surgery, current vaccinations, a microchip and a free follow-up wellness exam with a VCA Animal Hospital. For more information, call 602-997-7585 and ask for animal number 573816.
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Hyatt joined Friends for Life Animal Rescue by way of one of Maricopa County's shelters in December. He is now ready to find his forever home. Hyatt is said to be about 5 years old and he's weighing in at about 14 pounds. He is a little "Chi blend" that enjoys his walks and interacting with adults. It has been noted that he doesn't seem to care about interacting with young children so a home without young children or toddlers would be to his liking. He currently calls Friends for Life's downtown Gilbert adoption center home. While waiting for a forever home he loves the attention received from volunteers and getting out and about. His adoption fee is $150 and he is neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and licensed. If you are interested in Hyatt contact Friends for Life at 480-497-8296, [email protected], or visit them on line at www.azfriends.org to find out more information including location and hours of operation.
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This is Mindy, a stunning black and white short haired kitty, 2 ½ years old. A sad story—due to an eviction both she and a companion cat had to be surrendered and fortunately Sun Cities 4 Paws came to the rescue. They are both comfortably settled in and enjoying a roof over their heads and plenty of food. It’s just not quite the same, though. Mindy is a great girl, who likes to play and be brushed and get lots of attention. She is fine with other cats and doesn’t object to being picked up…all in all, a very sweet and friendly cat. She is living at the shelter, 10807 N. 96th Avenue, Peoria. Call 623-773-2246 after 10 a.m.; adoptions are Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10-3 p.m. Other adoption locations are 11129 Michigan Avenue, Youngtown; call 623-876-8778 after 10 a.m.; Surprise PetSmart, 13764 Bell Road; and Lake Pleasant Towne Center PetSmart, 25372 Lake Pleasant Parkway, Peoria.
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Golden retriever's happy new life

While debate over the bill continues, at least one abused animal has found a happy new life.

Frazer adopted Raine, the abused golden retriever, about a month after he was rescued. The Arizona Humane Society, which nursed the puppy back to health, had originally planned to hold a lottery to find an owner for Raine.

But the Humane Society decided Frazer would be the best owner and surprised her with Raine during a press conference about reporting animal cruelty.

More than a year later, Raine has grown into a healthy, 60-pound retriever — unrecognizable from the small, frightened puppy covered in cuts and bruises. Frazer said scars on his face and chipped teeth are the only signs of abuse.

The pair have since moved to a rural area of southeastern Idaho, along with Frazer's fiance. They live near farmland, where Raine enjoys chasing squirrels up trees and eating snow.

“He’s absolutely beautiful and sweet," Frazer said. “He’s a huge ball of energy. He’s not scared of anything."

READ MORE:

Phoenix man sentenced to 90 days in jail for killing, beheading puppy

Pet rescue owner accused of animal cruelty after horrific video surfaces

Man arrested after using sledgehammer to kill dog hit by car

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