Talking Pets: Getting tough with animal abusers

July 5, 2013 

As a pet owner, I cringed and had to take a deep breath when I first read about the Sarasota man who beat his ex-employer's dog to death with a tire iron.

Kevin Koscielniak had been fired April 27 after arriving at work intoxicated. So later that night, he broke into John's Automotive and was caught on video beating the owner's mastiff mix for 10 minutes until the dog was dead.

What a cruel, despicable act. I try not to think about how that dog suf

fered for 10 agonizing minutes as he was being beaten to death.

It makes me sick.

Last week, the Herald reported Koscielniak was sentenced to 14 years in prison and five years probation after being found guilty of the crime.

But he wasn't sentenced for animal cruelty. He pleaded no contest to armed burglary in return for the 14-year sentence.

The assistant state attorney on the case pointed out that the maximum sentence for armed burglary is life in prison, but for animal cruelty it's only five years.

It's hard to get my head around that.

According to the Florida Statutes, burglary is "entering a dwelling, a structure, or a conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein."

It becomes a first-degree burglary punishable by the maximum of life in prison the minute the perpetrator becomes armed.

So you can get life in prison for burglary -- even if you don't actually steal anything, even if you carry a weapon that may not be used -- but only five years for beating a living creature to death.

Having said that, I have to give kudos to the State Attorney's Office and assistant state attorney Art Jackman Jr. for finding a way within the parameters of the law to make Koscielniak pay a steep price for his senseless act of violence and cruelty, and for working to get tougher in prosecuting animal cruelty cases, 18 of which are pending at the felony level.

The Herald's report last week pointed out that the State Attorney's Office has instituted a division to prosecute animal cruelty cases and work with local law enforcement.

"Our office takes an aggressive stance against animal cruelty," Jackman told the Herald last week.

"This was a senseless act of violence, indicative of a depraved mind. What he did showed a barbaric mindset that posed a significant danger to the community."

In the meantime, my heart goes out to the dog's owner, Gloria Giraldo, who cried as she testified at the plea agreement how Ashton had been part of the family since he was a puppy and how the dog's violent death was traumatic for her 9-year-old daughter.

They say time heals all wounds; let's hope that's true, because as an animal lover, I can feel her pain.

And as a pet owner, it scares me to think that someone could get mad at you and take it out on your dog.

M.K. Means, Herald copy editor, can be reached at 941-745-7054 and followed on Twitter @BradentonPets.

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