Kansas couple charged in shooting death of puppy

Posted: Updated:
Tiffany Dale Willinger Tiffany Dale Willinger

A Kansas couple has been charged in connection with the shooting death of a puppy.

Tiffany Willinger and Kimberly Willinger, of Larned, appeared in Pawnee County Court Thursday morning.  Tiffany Willinger is charged with cruelty to animals and providing false information. Kimberly Willinger is charged with interference with law enforcement.

The charges are in connection with a pit bull puppy who was found on a rural Pawnee County road in July.  The puppy had been shot at least eight times with a small caliber gun and was later euthanized.

All charges in the case are Class A misdemeanors.  

Some have asked why the charges have not been classified as felony cruelty to animals. KAKE News sent this question to the Pawnee County Attorney who replied: 

"Your viewers are correct that under certain circumstances an individual can be subject to a nongrid felony charge of Cruelty to Animals.  Those scenarios are as follows: (1) Knowingly and maliciously killing, injuring, maiming, torturing, burning or mutilating any animal; (2) knowingly and maliciously administering any poison to any domestic animal; or (3) second or subsequent convictions of cruelty to animals.

The first two noted means require a finding the act was done “maliciously.”  As used in the cruelty to animals criminal statute, “maliciously” means a state of mind characterized by actual evil-mindedness or specific intent to do a harmful act without a reasonable justification or excuse. [Emphasis added] – K.S.A.21-6412(i)(3).

Similar to felony DUIs and Felony Domestic Battery, Felony Cruelty to Animal convictions are not subject to prison confinement, but rather require a mandatory sentence of 30 days in the County Jail up to 12 months and a minimum fine of $500 up to a $5,000.  Individuals convicted are also required to have a psychological evaluation during the mandatory 30 day jail sentence and are required to complete anger management counseling.  K.S.A. 21-6412(b)(1).

When making charging decisions, my office reviews law enforcement affidavits from the perspective that the State bears the burden of proof to prove all elements of a crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt.  That burden never shifts to an accused.  The Willingers are presumed innocent until proven guilty by a Court of Law.  In this particular situation, when the available evidence was viewed as a whole, I did not feel the State could prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” the requisite mental state to support a felony conviction.  Not withstanding my decision to move forward with misdemeanor charges, my office appreciates law enforcement’s efforts to identify responsible parties and I intend to pursue the maximum penalty allowed by law of 12 months in the County Jail."

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