When news broke that a 24-year-old New Haven man had been charged with stabbing a young pit bull mix 29 times at a Dixwell Avenue home, many expressed shock at the violent act.
Included in that group are almost two dozen state legislators, led by state Rep. Diana Urban, D-43, of North Stonington, who recently voiced their concerns in a letter to the judge who is presiding over Alexander Bernard's case.
Bernard told police he stabbed the eight-month-old dog named Princess because "no one in the family liked her." Princess was taken to North Haven Animal Hospital for treatment. Though she is still there, she has recovered from her injuries and will likely be adopted to a new home once Bernard's case is adjudicated.
Bernard was charged with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty, which is punishable with up to a year in jail, rather than a more serious felony animal cruelty charge, which could have rendered punishment of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Bernard was initially released on bond but was later ordered held in lieu of $10,000 bond after being found competent to stand trial. He is currently incarcerated in New Haven and is next due to appear in Meriden Superior Court Aug. 29.
At Bernard's last appearance on July 22, Judge Philip Scarpellino postponed taking action in the case because of the letter he had just received.
In the letter, the legislators emphasize the link that has been established between animal cruelty and violence against people, and urge Scarpellino not to go easy on Bernard by nolling the charge or granting Accelerated Rehabilitation, a diversionary program for first-time offenders that wipes away their criminal record is a period of probation is successfully completed.
"What Mr. Bernard did to this innocent young dog shows a shocking lack of empathy and a shocking and inappropriate level of violence," the representatives wrote. "This adult didn't steal a pack of gum from the grocery store, he stabbed a living, breathing creature capable of feeling pain 29 times like it was a natural thing to do.
"Clearly this individual in incapable of making rational decisions and shows a dangerous lack of civility and remorse," the letter says. "If Alexander Bernard could ruthlessly stab the family pet, imagine what he might be capable of in the years to come should his behavior go unpunished and untreated."
For 40 years, the FBI has considered animal abuse as a red flag for future crimes against humans, the legislators said, and noted that those involved in mass shootings as schools often have a history of animal abuse.
"It is time we took animal cruelty seriously and approach it as an opportunity to interrupt the cycle of violence," the letter states. "The sheer violence of his attack is enormously worrisome and the fact that the court doesn't appear to take what he did seriously is also distressing.
The legislature had provided judges with the tools to deal with such cases, the letter says, and if Bernard were to receive a program like Accelerated Rehabilitation, there would be no record of his actions.
"Mr. Bernard stabbed a sweet, defenseless dog 29 times," the legislators said. "What other indicator do we need to know that this man has a terrible violence in him?"
Scarpellino said in court last week that he believed the letter could be interpreted as "intimidation" towards him.
"I am upset by the letter but not influenced by it, " he said.
The following state representatives signed the letter:
Diana Urban, D-43 (North Stonington)
Audin Grogins, D-129 (Bridgeport)
Robert Megna D-97 (New Haven)
Michelle L. Cook, D-65 (Torrington)
Susan M. Johnson, D-49 (Willimantic)
Brenda Kupchik, R-132 (Fairfield)
Kim Fawcett, D-133 (Fairfield/Westport)
Noreen Kokoruda, R-101 (Madison)
David Kiner, D-59 (Enfield)
Steven Mikutel, D-45, (Griswold)
Henry Genga, D-10 (East Hartford)
Paul Davis, D-117 (Orange)
Richard Roy, D-119 (Milford)
Elaine O'Brien, D-61 (Windsor)
Brian Becker, D-19 (West Hartford)
Philip J. Miller, D-36 (Haddam/Deep River)
Jack Hennessey, D-127 (Bridgeport)
Elizabeth Ritter, D-38 (Waterford)
Christopher Lyddy, R-106 (Newtown)
Lonnie Reed, D-102 (Branford)