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Pet dog killers convicted of cruelty


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POSTED: Thursday, May 07, 2009

Two former maintenance men pleaded guilty yesterday to killing a pet dog that they had planned to eat.

; With the aid of an interpreter, Nelson Domingo, 45, and Saturnino Palting, 59, pleaded guilty to first-degree animal cruelty. In exchange, the Prosecutor's Office dropped second-degree theft charges.

First-degree cruelty to animals is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Domingo and Palting were employees at Moanalua Golf Club when they snatched a club member's pet dog from an equipment shack on Dec. 16, 2007.

Police said the two men were butchering the dog—an 8-month-old German shepherd-Labrador mix named Caddy—at a co-worker's home when the club manager called and asked about the dog. The frightened men threw the carcass into a stream. They were both fired.

Because the men have no prior convictions, they qualify for and have requested a deferral of their guilty pleas. That means if they stay out of trouble for a specified period of time, their guilty pleas will be set aside and their records cleared of any conviction.

Judge Randal Lee will make a decision on July 14.

Deputy Prosecutor Kristine Yoo said she will ask Lee to deny their deferral requests and issue the maximum sentence. Yoo said she agreed to drop the theft charges in exchange for the guilty pleas to send a message that “;we do take cases of violence against animals seriously.”;

She emphasized the case is not about anybody's culture or eating habits but about cruelty to a dog.

Lee Hayakawa, Palting's lawyer, said his client pleaded guilty because the animal cruelty law is “;vague, ambiguous, and poorly written,”; adding that it was his client's best option. The law defines animal cruelty as torturing, mutilating or poisoning a pet, resulting in injury or death.

Laura Yoshida, Domingo's lawyer, said her client wasn't aware the animal was a pet. He has been “;exhausted”; by the ordeal and “;remorseful,”; she said. “;He's basically been vilified.”;

Her client could also face deportation.

Inga Gibson, the state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said current Hawaii law addresses the inhumane killing of a pet, which is difficult to prove without a witness. A stronger law would outlaw the killing of a dog or cat for consumption.

The Humane Society opposes eating dogs or cats because more than 60 percent of Hawaii's households own such animals and don't consider them food.

The Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan have already prohibited eating dogs. In Hawaii, there continue to be reports of backyard slaughtering of dogs, she said. “;We're hoping that if they're convicted that it will send a clear message that it is cruel and also illegal to kill pet dogs for the purpose of consumption.”;