Thursday, April 30, 2015

Minnesota: Kathy Doenz to serve 90 days in jail in animal cruelty case

MINNESOTA -- Editor’s note: It was previously reported in last week’s Pioneer that Kathleen Doenz would spend no time in jail after pleading guilty to animal cruelty charges. This was based on a misreading of court documents and was incorrect.

Kathleen Doenz, 66, who pled guilty on April 13 to  one count of felony overworking, mistreating and/or torturing animals, will serve 90 days in Pine County Jail, be on probation for five years and may potentially be required to pay tens of thousands of dollars in restitution to the Pine County Sheriff’s Office.

Irene Carlson, 87, Doenz’s mother, will not be jailed but will also be placed on five years probation after pleading guilty to charges against her.

The charges stem from a Sept. 12, 2013 search warrant that resulted in the seizure of over 100 animals: horses, dogs, ducks and chickens in the care of Doenz and Carlson. Many of the animals were allegedly malnourished to the point of starvation and made to live in filthy conditions.

Animal cruelty law
 Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson said he believes Minnesota law should be rewritten in order to offer more options when prosecuting animal cruelty offenses.

“You can have a grain of methamphetamine and be put on probation longer and convicted of harsher sentences than someone who’s convicted of a felony animal cruelty count,” Frederickson explained.

“I always felt that there should probably be stricter penalties, at least a higher severity level ranking than what they do now in that matter. So what happens in cases like this, which seem pretty egregious, you have hundreds of animals seized, and the best you can do is a felony and probation.”

Frederickson said there are examples of tougher animal cruelty laws that Minnesota can follow.

“I know there are groups out there who are trying to [change the laws],” he said. “Minnesota’s kind of in its infancy when it comes to these laws and cases. Surprisingly, even a lot of states in the south are ahead of Minnesota when it comes to that. I think Georgia is one of the leading places that is on top of animal cruelty laws.”

Felony could be lifted, restitution possible
Another wrinkle in the deal Doenz made in exchange for a guilty plea is that, if she goes five years without a criminal offense, the felony conviction will be taken off her criminal history.

“If she successfully completes probation it’s deemed a misdemeanor for criminal history purposes,” Frederickson said. “But for other purposes, including for other cases, she is still deemed a convicted felon.”

But Frederickson said that after Doenz and Carlson are sentenced the Pine County Sheriff’s Office will be able to seek restitution from Doenz and Carlson for expenses.

“Part of the animal cruelty statute states that an offender is liable to restitution to a county that’s expended money feeding the animals,” he said.

As previously reported, the Pine County Sheriff’s Office spent a reported $40,000 for the care and feeding of the animals rescued from Doenz and Carlson.

Doenz and Carlson face sentencing in Pine County Court on June 23 at 1:30 p.m.

( - April 30, 2015)


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