Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Friends of Equines Makes News Again

Horse killing spawns petition for law

KEITH WHITCOMB JR., Staff Writer, The Bennington Banner
Posted: 01/20/2009 03:02:27 AM EST

Tuesday, January 20

HOOSICK, N.Y. — A call for stricter animal cruelty legislation is making its way up the governmental ladder and is being urged in an online petition circulated by a local woman.
Much of the activity is the result of a bay horse named Skye, owned by Dawn Feathers, that was stabbed to death while stabled at a barn on Hill Road in Hoosick in late December. Police arrested Michael J. Lohnes, 25, of Hoosick Falls in connection with the crime. They also arrested Lohnes's girlfriend, Alyna O'Donovan, 17.

O'Donovan, police believe, was not present at the time of the horse's killing, but was on probation while being on the run with Lohnes.

The term "companion animal," does not refer to livestock, according to police. For Lohnes to be charged with a felony, the prosecution will have to prove Skye counted as a companion animal.

A local resident, Casey Webster, 21, said she has begun circulating a petition through e-mail that is urging the full weight of the law be used against Skye's killer. Webster, who attends college in Maine and is aquatinted with Feathers, said her parents had kept the horse's death a secret from her initially, knowing the news would upset her.

"I was pretty upset," Webster said. "I couldn't sleep."

She said she went online to create a petition, but found there already was one. The petition she found is sponsored by a group called Friends of Equines FOES of Equine Slaughter.

As of Monday, the petition had collected over 1,200 signatures, exceeding its goal of 1,000. The posts come mainly from the United States, but a few seem to be from as far away as France, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

"We are asking that no leniency be shown by the court for heartless criminals such as this," the petition reads. "Studies have shown a distinctive link between people who abuse animals and violent crime against humans."

Webster, who owns horses herself, said her love of animals drove her to helping to circulate the petition.

The incident has caused motion in the government as well. Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, has said Buster's Law, a law that makes aggravated cruelty to a "companion animal" a felony, needs to be strengthened in light of recent cases involving crimes committed against animals.

Tedisco's proposed amendments to Buster's Law would require those convicted of crimes involving animal cruelty to undergo psychiatric evaluations before being allowed to own or adopt an animal, and to be under stricter probation guidelines.

The horse incident previously roused the interest of the Rensselaer County Legislature, with Legislators Lester Goodermote and Stan Brownell calling for Buster's law to be strengthened.

Goodermote and Brownell's comments have echoed Tedisco's sentiments on the matter, who had been speaking about the strengthening of Buster's Law, which he originally sponsored in 2003, since July 2008.

In July, Tedisco cited two cases involving cats that had been tortured and killed near Troy. Buster's Law itself is named after a cat that had been doused in kerosene and lit on fire by a teenager in Schenectady in 1997.

Tedisco said in a statement that those with a history of animal abuse often go on to commit similar crimes involving humans. Goodermote and Brownell echoed these concerns in their statements.

Police said the motive behind the killing of Skye may have had little to do with the horse. The animal was being stabled at Lohnes's cousin's barn, and that Lohnes was attempting to commit burglary, police said.

Lohnes may have thought the horse belonged to his cousin and killed it as part of a dispute the two had been having, according to police.

Contact Keith Whitcomb at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com.

Click on title above to see (and sign) petition;


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