Defending animals against human cruelty

  • 2009-12-02
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

VILNIUS - On Nov. 26, about 50 people demonstrated in front of the Lithuanian parliament demanding an increase in penalties for cruelty against animals. Their demand was for four years’ imprisonment or a 26,000 litas’ (7,530 euros) fine for such action. The action was named “No to violence against animals!” The demonstration was held after Lithuania’s first ever court sentence putting a criminal into jail in a case of cruelty against animals.

On Nov. 23, the court in Kaunas sentenced Svajunas Beniukas to eight months and 10 days in jail. His first name means “dreamer” in Lithuanian, though his dreams seem to be quite dark: on Nov. 14, he threw a dog, named Pipiras, off a 20-meter high bridge. The footage of the act was placed on the Internet, provoking world-wide outrage. Beniukas laughs and speaks about “flying dogs” on that video. In the Animal Welfare Association’s shelter, Pipiras died after a week because of sustained injuries. More than 20,000 outraged people signed an Internet petition demanding the maximum penalty (now it is one year imprisonment in Lithuania) for Beniukas. The signatories were mostly Italians and Americans, though there were also signatures from Australia, Brazil, Uruguay, Qatar, Poland, Lithuania and dozens of other countries.

In the courtroom, Beniukas stated that family values are very important to him and Pipiras was hunting his mother’s chickens. “I always stand for a family and the family’s welfare,” Beniukas said in the court during his briefing to journalists. He has a wife and a child. The family lived in Kaunas. Beniukas frequently visited his mother who lives in the nearby small town of Seredzius. During a briefing in the court, Beniukas also said that he has a spaniel named Barbosas. Beniukas still has some days to appeal against the judge’s decision, but has said he will not do so.

Soon after the trial, the Beniukas family moved out of the rented flat in Kaunas. Barbosas was found abandoned in that flat. The little dog was brought to the animal shelter of the Animal Welfare Association in Kaunas. The dog was found by the Food and Veterinary Service, which was urged by the Animal Welfare Association to check on Barbosas’ situation. The dog is a mongrel, part dachshund and part spaniel. The two-month old Barbosas was hungry, ill and had a high temperature. Now a family in Kaunas has taken Barbosas temporarily until the issue of legal possession of the dog is solved.
On Nov. 26, there were many teenage girls who are volunteers of animal-helping NGOs who were among the protestors in front of the Lithuanian parliament in Vilnius. Some protestors came with their children and dogs. The protesters held posters which stated, “Why?”, “Dogs can’t fly,” “Don’t do harm to our best friends!”

Dangute Mikutiene, MP of the Labor Party faction, was among the protestors as well. After the tragedy of Pipiras, she proposed a draft law for increasing punishment for cruel behavior against animals, from one year imprisonment to four years’ imprisonment or a 26,000 litas’ fine. According to her, the average punishment for such a crime in the EU is five years’ imprisonment, and fines are reaching up to 100,000 euros in some countries. Mikutiene said that she received some 300 e-mails from 11 countries after the Pipiras tragedy. She highly regarded the protest in front of the Lithuanian parliament. “It is a signal to the world that we are a civilized country,” she said.