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MORE BITE TO THE LAW -- Last week, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed SB 353 into law, which means animals now can be included within a domestic violence protective order.
The bill, written by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, stemmed from studies that link domestic violence, child abuse and animal cruelty. It's a law that, on the surface, might seem like a bit of a stretch until you look at how often animals are abused to intimidate women and children in domestic violence cases.
"It's absolutely an issue," said Belinda Rolicheck, executive director of Haven Women's Center. "It's a tactic (abusers) use with children, probably more so than with women. You get to them through their pets."
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Beth Owen, a Stanislaus County deputy district attorney who prosecutes domestic violence cases, said animal cruelty issues pop up in cases on occasion.
Abusers beat or kill animals as a way of terrorizing and controlling their victims.
"We deal with lots of cases where victims say, 'He kicked the dog,' " Owen said. "It's a form of intimidation."
In the past couple of years, abusers in domestic violence cases have included some sordid behavior on a Michael Vick-like scale:
A man shot his wife to death and then turned the gun on her dog. The pooch lived, but the suspect was convicted of murder and animal cruelty, with a gun enhancement.
A 19-year-old man, in an argument with his 14-year-old girlfriend, threw her puppy into the air and then stomped it when it landed.
In a case that will go to trial soon, a defendant is accused of shooting and skinning his girlfriend's dog when she left him after a fight.
A man convicted of stalking also faced charges of trying to kill his ex-girlfriend's dog by stuffing hot dogs with rat poison. That charge didn't stick because there was no evidence the pooch ate any of the poisoned hot dogs.
"But he'd called her on the phone, telling her to check on the dog, to see what it's eating," Owen said. "Obviously, he was alluding to the poisoning."
The Haven's Rolicheck said some women hesitate to come to the center because they don't want to leave their pets behind, fearing for the animals' safety. Consequently, the Haven developed agreements with some local veterinarians to provide shelter for pets in those circumstances, she said.
A LIFE BUOY OF ITS OWN -- In October 2006, I wrote a column about Walt Laukkanen, an 84-year-old Modestan whose quick thinking prevented a tragedy at sea during World War II. Aboard the ship Anchorage Victory in summer 1944, Laukkanen realized it was on a collision course with a troop transport on a pitch-black night in the Pacific. The ships were running in blackout conditions because of Japanese submarines working the area. He sounded general quarters and the ships both veered, missing each other by about 20 feet and saving roughly 2,000 lives.
Carl Reinhardt of Ceres read the column and remembered it vividly. He was on the other ship, the transport, and his account appeared in a subsequent column.
A Navy veterans group asked for permission to reprint both columns in the May-September edition of its publication, The Pointer. Ex-Navy Armed Guard Bill Patterson of Turlock read them and sent an e-mail describing his own near-collision in the Pacific.
He was a gunner aboard the merchant ship Alcoa Planter when it nearly hit a passing vessel.
"We never knew what the other ship was, but we were sailing in opposite directions," Patterson wrote. "I have to assume the watch in the bow were asleep."
NO SMOKING -- One day last week, while stopped at the intersection of Briggsmore Avenue and Claus Road, I noticed some kind of clear liquid spilling from a bobtail truck in the lane to my left. I started to roll down my window to see if the liquid smelled like gas or anything else that might be flammable.
Then I happened to glance in the rear-view mirror and noticed the driver behind me -- a young woman in a white Pontiac Grand Am -- flick her cigarette out the window. She seemed oblivious to the leaking from the truck.
Having gased up my car just minutes before, I envisioned one of those Hollywood-style explosion scenes in which I'd be the guest star. No, thanks.
I closed my window. The light turned green, and I put some distance between my car, the truck and the Grand Am.
Granted, there was no ball of flame in my rear-view mirror. It probably was just water seeping from that truck. But she had no way of knowing.
Next time, save me the rush and use the ashtray.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2383.