9-month term for dog killers

Two dog killers were sentenced to serve nine months yesterday by a judge who said their crime warranted the relatively high sentence.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Thomas Felnagle said before a courtroom packed with animal-rights activists that he found the crime and the young men's criminal history "disturbing."

Steven L. Paulson, 21, and Troy L. Loney, 19, both of Wilkeson, were found guilty of first-degree animal cruelty last month.

A witness testified that the two had killed a Siberian husky on March 8 by tying it to a tree and shooting it repeatedly with an arrow that they pulled from the animal and used over and over.

The two men, who dumped the dog's body in a nearby river, said the animal was sick and that they were simply trying to put it out of its misery.

The crime carried a sentence that ranged from zero to 12 months.

Loney's previous convictions for child molestation and a failure to register as a sex offender and Paulson's conviction for burglary and forgery affected their sentences.

The men's attorneys had asked that they be given suspended sentences.

Felnagle ordered Loney and Paulson, who is the son of Wilkeson's mayor, to serve eight months in jail with credit for time served. Felnagle required them to perform 240 hours of community service at the Tacoma/Pierce County Humane Society in lieu of one month of the sentence.

He also ordered them to take part in the Humane Society's newly formed Animal Cruelty Prevention Treatment Program and pay nearly $2,000 in fines and court costs.

The case drew international attention and sparked outrage from animal-rights groups, which launched a letter-writing and Internet campaign from people demanding that the crime be prosecuted to the full extent possible.

Deputy Prosecutor Dennis Ashman said he'd received letters from animal lovers as far away as Finland, Italy and Australia.

Yesterday, dozens of people lined up in front of the courthouse to denounce the young men.

Helena Shelley was among many holding signs. She was a founding member of Pasado's Safe Haven, which pushed for legislation making animal cruelty a felony after a pet donkey named Pasado was tortured and killed in 1992 in Bellevue.

"Shoot THEM with arrows" Shelley's sign said on one side, and "Send them to Iraq" on the other.

Animal-rights activists had asked Ashman to seek a five-year sentence. But he noted that the 12 months he requested was the maximum allowed.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com