Case Snapshot
Case ID: 3570
Classification: Beating
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Abuse was retaliation against animal's bad behavior
Drugs or alcohol involved
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Monday, Dec 11, 2000

County: New Haven

Disposition: Failed to Appear

Person of Interest: Peter McKenna

Case Updates: 2 update(s) available

Peter McKenna, 51, of Milford has been charged with beating Sal Nuzzo's 9-year old German shepherd Rocky to death. Allegedly the dog growled at him. McKenna was apparently under the influence of alcohol when he bashed Rocky's skull with a stick or a bat. Rocky was taken to Milford Animal Hospital where he died from severe trauma to his brain.

McKenna has a criminal history dating back to 1979. Convictions include: probation violations and escape from custody. He was charged with misdemeanor cruelty to animals. This crime carries a maximum jail term of one year and a $1,000 fine. Animal control officer Pat Liptak recommnded that McKenna be charged under the felony portion of the animal cruelty statute which carries a maximum jail term of five years and a maximum fine of $5,000. Prosecutors will review the case to determine whether additional charges are warranted. Nuzzo has expressed concern that McKenna is dangerous and could treat humans the way he treated Rocky.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is urging prosecutors and a judge to charge the man with felony cruelty for beating the dog to death. Linda Heubner, Program Coordinator for the Humane Society of the United States New England Regional Office says, "Anyone who could brutally beat an animal like that is very disturbed and is a danger to other animals and to people."

There is much evidence nationwide of the connection between animal cruelty and violence towards people. The HSUS First Strike Campaign raises public awareness and educates communities about this connection while ofering a variety of resources to law enforcement agencies, social work professionals, educators, legislators and famlies, in an effort to combat the abuse and work toward a safer world for animals and people.

Judge Karen Nash Sequino set bail for McKenna at $5,000 and ordered that he submit to alcohol screening and treatment and psychological treatment and evaluation, and in-patient treatment if necessary. McKenna who had been jailed at the Connecticut Correctional Center in New Haven was released after posting $5,000 bail in the animal cruelty case.

Prosecutors who had recommended that McKenna be jailed on $35,000 bail, called the incident very serious and said they intend to review the case to determine if additional charges are warranted.


Case Updates

Like the reputation of the feisty and ultimately triumphant movie character who shares his name, the legacy of Rocky the German shepherd will live on.

In October, nearly four years after the 9-year-old city dog was bludgeoned to death, a new law goes into effect that allows pet owners to seek up to $3,500 in civil penalties from animal abusers.

State House Majority Leader James Amann, D-Milford, said the third time was a charm for the General Assembly to approve his Rocky Memorial Act. The Legislature had twice previously failed to pass the measure.

"All of those years fighting for Rocky were worth it," Amann said. "We never gave up. It's so outrageous for someone to kill a dog like that.

"This will allow people to finally be able to go after civil damages. Pets are very important to people and now this will not allow someone to get away with hurting an innocent dog," he said.

Rocky died in 2000, following a brutal beating allegedly inflicted by then city resident Peter McKenna, 54. McKenna, a roommate of Rocky's owner, was arrested Dec. 11, 2000.

In 2001, however, McKenna failed to show for a court hearing as 40 animal rights activists waited in vain for him and protestors shouted into bullhorns and carried signs that said, "Dog murder is a felony."

Animal rescue groups held five protests against McKenna in Milford, but none since 2001.

McKenna left the city and has not been located, though further warrants for his arrest have been issued. McKenna is charged with misdemeanor cruelty to animals, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Under current state law, it is a crime to steal or tamper with a dog's identity, or to kill or injure a dog. Amann's bill will also make it a criminal act to steal or harm a cat.

The Rocky bill, which takes effect Oct. 1, limits civil suits to "companion animals," defined as dogs or cats. The bill authorizes small claims courts to award punitive damages up to $3,500. Licensed veterinarians who follow acceptable standards of care are exempted from litigation.

Julie Lewin, an animal-rights lobbyist and president of Animal Advocacy CT, said one of the best features of the bill is that it allows plaintiffs to seek attorney's fees. She called the bill's passage "a small giant step" in protecting animals from abuse.

"I'm thrilled," Lewin said.

The measure also increases a first offense fine for animal cruelty from $200 to $1,000, and a second offense increases from $500, to $2,000. The possible prison sentence for an anima abuse conviction remains unchanged at six months.

Amann had originally sought a civil penalty cap of $5,000 and that the bill would cover all animals, but changes were made in order to garner passage.

Lewin said she has been in contact with the man who owned Rocky and he is still devastated by the brutal death of his companion.

"He brought in a roommate who beat his dog to death in his home," Lewin said. "How much more devastated can he be?"

Judy Rettig, animal control officer for the district that cover Bethany, Orange, Woodbridge and Prospect, said she's pleased the Rocky bill will become law.

"Anything that protects animals is a step in the positive direction," Rettig said. "After 24 years in this business I'm so tired of the abuse of animals.
Source: Journal Register News Service 06/02/2004
Update posted on Oct 31, 2005 - 10:44AM 
Peter McKenna, 51, now faces up to five years in prison and $5,000 fines on a felony cruelty to animals charge. Judge Karen Nash Sequino upgraded the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony.

In response to Rocky's death, state Rep James Amann, Democrat Milford, is drafting a bill that would stiffen penalities for animal abusers.
Source: CT Post - Jan 12, 2001
Update posted on Apr 17, 2005 - 1:45PM 

References

  • U.S. Newswire - Dec 22, 2000
  • New Haven Register - Dec 13, 2000
  • New Haven Register - Dec 16, 2000

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