Who, age What Where When Last known address
17-year-old boy severely beat a dog during a burglary

Riverton, UT

Salt Lake County

August 15, 2008 Riverton, UT
17-year-old boy severely beat a dog during a burglary

Riverton, UT

Salt Lake County

August 15, 2008 West Jordan, UT
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved
Felony burglary, theft 1 cockapoo dog

A family dog is fighting for its life after apparently being attacked during a home burglary.

The 13-pound cockapoo named Ranger suffered a skull fracture. Doctors at the Southeast Valley Vet Clinic, 10572 S. 700 East, were trying to remain hopeful about his prognosis, noting that Ranger has shown a little bit of steady improvement since being taken to the hospital.

A doctor at the hospital said head-trauma injuries were hard to predict, and whether Ranger would recover is hard to say at this point, but the hospital was encouraged with the slow progress.

As Ranger recovers, his owners are making a plea to the public to help find the person, or people, responsible for attacking their small dog. Two rewards have also been offered.

Vicky Kunz and her family went out of town for a vacation in Yellowstone National Park. The neighbors were watching Ranger and took him for a walk about 10 p.m. Friday. When they were done, they put Ranger into his gated backyard, Kunz said.

The next morning, neighbors noticed the garage door at the Kunz house, near the Herriman-Riverton border, was open. That afternoon, neighbors called the Kunz family and told them the garage was open and Ranger was missing. Already debating whether to go home Saturday night or Sunday morning, Vicky said the decision was made to leave that day.  "We rushed home thinking the dog must be running around the neighborhood," she said.

Instead, when the family opened the door, they found Ranger "laying in a pool of blood and having a seizure," Kunz said.

While Ranger was rushed to the vet, other family members continued looking around the home. It wasn't until 30 minutes after the family returned home that they realized there were several missing items.

A handgun stored in the back of a closet was taken, along with bottles filled with loose change, a wedding band and a purse that Kunz said contained nothing of value.  "They must have spent some time in the house looking around," she said.  Other items, such as laptops and a Wii video system, were untouched, Kunz said.

The Kunz family believes the burglar entered through a window that wasn't locked and then tried to leave through the back door, which was deadbolted when they went on vacation but not when they returned.

Although Ranger is small, he is protective of the house, Kunz said. She believes Ranger likely continued barking at the intruder or may have even tried to nip at his legs. But Kunz said Ranger's mouth isn't even big enough to fit around someone's ankle. She says she can't believe a person felt so threatened by the 13-pound dog that they would take such action.  "The thing we're most upset about is what happened to the dog. We view that as complete brutality," she said.

Ranger now has an IV because he can't eat, Kunz said. The family was encouraged that he's at least been able to lift his head a little bit.

The attack has outraged animal-advocacy groups around the state, several of which are offering cash rewards for information.  "This is truly shocking," said Gene Baierschmidt, executive director of the Humane Society of Utah. "How could anyone do something like this to a small, innocent dog?"

The Humane Society has established a medical fund for Ranger and is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. The Animal Advocacy Alliance of Utah is offering an additional $2,000 reward.

The family is asking anyone with information to call the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office at 801-743-7000.

Update 9/30/08:  The Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office has made one arrest and said charges were pending against a second person in connection with the severe beating of a 13-pound dog who was left for dead in August. Ranger, a cockapoo, was left fighting for his life after being attacked during a home burglary in Riverton. The dog suffered a fractured skull but eventually recovered enough that he could go home from the vet clinic.

Through "good dogged police work," investigators were able to come up with a couple of names of juveniles known to frequent the area, said Salt Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Paul Jaroscak. That work paid off when a 17-year-old boy was arrested and booked into juvenile detention for investigation of animal cruelty, aggravated burglary, theft and stealing a firearm.

The teen was booked for investigation of felony animal cruelty. If prosecutors agree with deputies' original assessment and decide to charge him with a felony, it would be the first test of the state's new animal cruelty law.

Ranger, who belongs to Vicky Kunz and her family, was at home the weekend of Aug. 16 while the family was out of town. Detectives believe two juveniles broke into the Kunz house, one of them armed with a weapon, Jaroscak said.

While Ranger underwent treatment for his injuries, the Humane Society of Utah worked to raise money to pay for his medical bills, said executive director Gene Baierschmidt. He said he's glad to hear police were able to sniff out the suspects responsible for this crime.  "It was a cruel act, and it inflicted extreme physical pain," Baierschmidt said. "I'm glad they were able to apprehend them, and, hopefully, they will get the counseling they need."  Once the two teens came onto the sheriff's radar, Jaroscak said, it took some time to compare forensic evidence and conduct interviews with the boys and their parents. Charges against the second boy, also 17, were pending, Jaroscak said.

Kunz said her family found out last Friday that the teen was going to surrender.  "We feel good, really good. It's given us a sense of closure. It's kind of been a long ordeal," she said. "My kids are a little more comfortable in their own home again. Mostly we're just glad (the juveniles) are not going to be able to do that in our neighborhood again for awhile."  Kunz said she didn't know the suspects, but she would be curious to find out why they attacked her dog like they did.

As for Ranger, Kunz said he is "doing amazingly well."  He's up walking around and running and interacting with the kids, but he definitely has a loss of coordination," she said.  "He's a very lucky dog to say the least," Baierschmidt said.

Update 10/4/08:  Two 17-year-old boys accused of severely beating a family dog during a burglary hit the dog twice with a baseball bat, according to court documents.

The teens were charged with aggravated animal cruelty, a third-degree felony, in 3rd District Juvenile Court. Prosecutors believe they are the first felony charges filed using the new Henry's Law, which allows some cases of animal cruelty to be charged as felonies.  The teens were also charged with burglary of a dwelling and theft, both second-degree felonies.

On Aug. 16, police say, the two teens went to the Riverton home of Ryan and Vicky Kunz , who were on vacation. One of the teens broke into the house through a basement window and then opened the door for the other teen, according to court documents.

The boys went though the house, taking certain items and throwing them in a backpack. The stolen property included a handgun, a diamond platinum ring, a purse and coins from a coin jar, according to court documents. The total value of all items taken was more than $5,000.

During the course of the burglary, the Kunzes' dog, Ranger, who was being watched by a neighbor while the family was out of town, barked at the intruders. The barking prompted one of the teens to grab a bat and strike the 13-pound cockapoo twice, according to court documents. The dog fell to the ground and the boys left the house.

Ranger was eventually able to recover enough to go home. The Kunz family said Ranger is doing well but has lost some of his coordination. The medical bills for Ranger's treatment have exceeded $1,000.

Through continued detective work, Salt Lake County sheriff's investigators were able to track down one of the suspects. They interviewed the teen, who admitted his role and the role of his friend, according to court documents. Detectives recovered the stolen handgun from a bedroom dresser of one of the suspects.

Update 3/12/09:  A 17-year-old Riverton boy charged in connection with severely beating a dog during a burglary pleaded guilty in 3rd District Juvenile Court.

The teenager apologized to his family and the family whose dog he nearly killed before Judge Christine Decker scheduled a disposition for April 30. A West Jordan teen pleaded guilty to similar charges before the hearing.

The case marked the first crime charged under Henry's Law, which makes some acts of animal torture a felony. The violent incident prompted the Animal Advocacy Alliance of Utah to file a friend-of-the-court brief.

Anne Davis, executive director of the organization, asked that teenagers be given the maximum sentence possible and suggested counseling and community service for both defendants.

Davis said after the hearing she was pleased the case was treated seriously and hopes it sends a message that violence against animals will not be tolerated.  "It's a miracle that the dog survived and that he is doing so well," Davis said.

The Riverton teenager was charged with third-degree felony aggravated cruelty to an animal and burglary and theft, both second-degree felonies. He admitted to a lesser charge of third-degree felony burglary and third-degree felony cruelty to an animal.

Update 4/30/09:  A 17-year-old Riverton boy who pleaded guilty to severely beating a dog during a burglary was sentenced to probation in 3rd District Juvenile Court.

Judge Christine Decker ordered the teenager to serve time in a secure facility and a juvenile work camp, but suspended the sentence as long as the teenager follows terms of his probation and doesn't commit any new infractions, said Nancy Volmer, a spokeswoman for the Utah State Courts.

The judge sentenced the teenager to attended individual and family therapy, not to leave Utah without informing his probation team, and ordered him to undergo a drug and alcohol assessment, Volmer said. A review hearing is scheduled for June 16.

Update 10/4/08:  Two 17-year-old boys accused of severely beating a family dog during a burglary hit the dog twice with a baseball bat, according to court documents.

The teens were charged Friday with aggravated animal cruelty, a third-degree felony, in 3rd District Juvenile Court. Prosecutors believe they are the first felony charges filed using the new Henry's Law, which allows some cases of animal cruelty to be charged as felonies.

The teens were also charged with burglary of a dwelling and theft, both second-degree felonies.

On Aug. 16, police say, the two teens went to the Riverton home of Ryan and Vicky Kunz , who were on vacation. One of the teens broke into the house through a basement window and then opened the door for the other teen, according to court documents.

The boys went though the house, taking certain items and throwing them in a backpack. The stolen property included a handgun, a diamond platinum ring, a purse and coins from a coin jar, according to court documents. The total value of all items taken was more than $5,000.

During the course of the burglary, the Kunzes' dog, Ranger, who was being watched by a neighbor while the family was out of town, barked at the intruders. The barking prompted one of the teens to grab a bat and strike the 13-pound cockapoo twice, according to court documents. The dog fell to the ground and the boys left the house.

The Kunz family returned from their vacation to find Ranger lying in a pool of blood. He was rushed to a vet clinic where doctors discovered he had a fractured skull.

Ranger was eventually able to recover enough to go home. The Kunz family said Ranger is doing well but has lost some of his coordination. The medical bills for Ranger's treatment have exceeded $1,000.

Davis said while she's happy to see animal torture prosecuted as a felony, the sentences for Ranger's case in juvenile court were "less strict" than what the crime warranted.

"Dealing in juvenile court is a different animal," Davis said, noting the teenager could have served prison time had the case been prosecuted in adult court.  "I hope that Ranger's family sees this as justice and that they can move on."

Reference:

The Salt Lake Tribune

The Deseret News