Outrage over crime against a dog

  • 2009-11-25
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

THE LAST VISIT: Pipiras was visited by his owner, 70-year old Petras Dunskaitis; the dog was being cared for at the Animal Welfare Association.

VILNIUS - On Nov. 14, 22-year old Svajunas Beniukas threw a middle-sized mongrel dog off a 20-meter high bridge. On Nov. 16, footage of the act was placed on the Web site www.15min.lt and later on YouTube. Many outraged foreign animal lovers were calling to Lithuanian embassies in the Netherlands, Germany, the U.S., and other countries. The story attracted huge interest in the Lithuanian media and such British newspaper giants as the Daily Telegraph as well as British tabloids Daily Mail and The Sun. The story about this horrific cruelty was even published on Australian Internet sites.

Finally, the perpetrator was identified by outraged readers of the Lithuanian newspaper www.15min.lt and police issued its official thanks to those readers. On Nov. 18, Beniukas was forced to rush to the police with his confession about his crime. The atmosphere of condemnation of that crime in the country was such that Beniukas could feel safer only by surrendering to the police. Thousands of Internet commentators were calling for doing the same with Beniukas as he did to the dog.

Beniukas lives in Kaunas. He is not working nor studying. Beniukas was often visiting his mother, who lives in the small town of Seredzius, north-west of Kaunas, in the Jurbarkas region. Beniukas told the police that his mother’s neighbor’s dog was hunting and killing his mother’s chickens. According to Beniukas, a neighbor, 70-year-old Petras Dunskaitis, was not reacting to complaints about his dog.

Beniukas has been charged with cruelty against the animal. On Nov. 23, the court in Kaunas sentenced him to eight months and 10 days in jail. Beniukas is the first Lithuanian who will be imprisoned for cruel behavior to animals. Earlier, the Lithuanian courts were sentencing such criminals only with fines. “I just wanted to throw that dog into a river but I missed,” Beniukas said in the court. He added that he was slightly drunk and the dog landed on a gravel road. The dog was left to lie under the bridge for three days until somebody called police, who then informed the Animal Welfare Association in Kaunas.
Beniukas refused to identify the young men who filmed the brutal act and posted the mobile phone video footage on a Web site. “It will be a movie about flying dogs,” Beniukas says on that video before throwing the dog off the 20-meter high bridge over the Dubysa river.

Beniukas was convicted of theft in an earlier case. This is why the court, on Nov. 23, added an additional 10 days to the eight month prison sentence for cruelty against the animal. Now Beniukas is a suspect in another case of theft, of a safe with 30,000 litas (8,689 euros) from a farmer.
Ironically enough, Beniukas has a four-month old English spaniel named Barbosas. Beniukas also kept another dog for 15 years. After the dog throwing crime, the Animal Welfare Association urged the Veterinary Service to check the conditions in which Barbosas is kept.

Despite falling some 20 meters and sustaining multiple fractures and internal injuries, veterinarians said the dog, Pipiras (“Pepper” in Lithuanian), still had a chance to survive. In the Animal Welfare Association’s shelter, Pipiras started to eat and drink though the dog had problems with bowel movements. Several people from Lithuania and the Netherlands expressed their wish to adopt this disabled dog. The possibility of such adoption was considered, because it could be too difficult for the 70-year old owner of Pipiras to take care of the disabled dog.

On Nov. 21, Pipiras looked quite well. “Many people visited Pipiras today. Even a specialist on the rehabilitation of human beings, not animals, arrived from Vilnius and gave him a massage,” Jurgita Gustaitiene, head of the shelter for animals of the Animal Welfare Association, told The Baltic Times on Nov. 21. However, on Nov. 22, Pipiras’ heart stopped beating and the dog died. According to Gustaitiene, Pipiras probably could have been saved if the dog would have been found earlier, and had not been under the bridge for three days.

Now there are 34 cats and 58 dogs up for adoption at the Animal Welfare Association’s shelter in Kaunas. Their number is expected to grow now that the money-consuming heating season has started. The shelter is already overcrowded. People are abandoning their pets because of the economic crisis. The lost or abandoned pets of the Kaunas region available for adoption can be found on the association’s website www.animal.lt/globa/kaunas and info regarding the bank account for donations can be found via the association’s email address info@animal.lt while pet adoption and shelter issues in the Vilnius region can be found on the Web site of the NGO SOS Gyvunai (“SOS Animals” in Lithuanian)  http://sos-gyvunai.lt (the latter Web site also has an English-language version), or via email info@sos-gyvunai.lt.

After the tragedy with Pipiras, the idea of a draft law for increasing punishment for cruel behavior against animals, from a one year imprisonment to four years’ imprisonment was proposed by Dangute Mikutiene, MP of the Labor Party faction in the Lithuanian parliament. On Nov. 20, delfi.lt, the most popular Lithuanian Internet site, asked its readers if they would agree with an increase of punishment for cruel behavior to animals, to up to four years’ imprisonment. Some 80 percent said “yes” during the electronic vote while only 12 percent said “no,” and eight percent said that they have no opinion on the issue.