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Douglas County man is first to be sentenced under animal torture law

MINDEN – A Douglas County man was sentenced to 30 days in jail Monday and became the first adult in Nevada sentenced to jail time under the new state law that makes mutilation and torture of an animal a felony.

Rodney Shoop, 54, of Indian Hills received a deferred one-year to three-year prison sentence from District Judge Michael Gibbons for shooting a stray cat last March and then chopping it up and throwing the animal’s head into his neighbor’s yard. Shoop also must serve five years of probation, participate in alcohol treatment and anger management programs and work 100 hours at an animal shelter.

Shoop said, “I’m sorry,” before Gibbons pronounced sentence and ordered him to surrender later Monday at the Douglas County jail. He will receive credit for two days he served in jail after his arrest. He added that when he drinks, he makes bad decisions.

Gibbons, who said he has three cats himself but lives on a ranch, expressed concern for the safety of residents because Shoop was intoxicated when he shot the cat in his yard in a crowded neighborhood.

He also noted the man had been convicted of a felony involving a firearm 25 years ago and should have not had any weapons.

Gina Griesen of Las Vegas, the president of Nevada Voters for Animals, had hoped Shoop would receive at least one year in prison as a way to publicize the law and serve as a deterrent to other potential animal abusers. She was the primary force behind Senate Bill 223, sponsored by Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, that went into law last October. Under the law, animal cruelty becomes a felony crime, punishable by a one-year to four-year sentence in prison in cases where animals are wantonly tortured or mutilated. Forty-five states now make cases of extreme animal cruelty felony offenses.

The law is called “Cooney’s Law” after a beagle dog mutilated by its owner in Reno two years ago.

“It is so heinous what he did,” said Griesen about Shoop. “But it is not my job to tell a judge what to do.”

At the sentence hearing, Tod Young, the public defender representing Shoop, said his client was an animal lover whose own cat sleeps on his bed every night. He added the stray cat had engaged in fights with Shoop’s pet, which had cost him hundreds of dollars in veterinarian bills.

He added the Shoop was not a “sadistic” who took pleasure in killing animals.

Shoop has been attending anti-alcohol programs and now feels better than he has in decades, he said. Examinations also showed he suffers from some brain disorders, according to Young.

But Gibbons said that it made “no sense” what Shoop did, particularly throwing the cat’s head over his fence into the neighbor’s yard. He added the crime “horrified everyone.” Shoop also cannot possess any firearms, the judge ordered.

“You should have never had a firearm,” he added. “You cannot kill an animal like you did.”

Young contended the cat wasn’t mutilated or tortured because its body had been almost destroyed when it was shot.

Shoop is the first known adult in Nevada convicted under Cooney’s law. Last July, two 16-year-old Las Vegas boys were sentenced to serve time in a juvenile center for drowning 2-day-old kittens. The boys reportedly were laughing when they drowned the kittens.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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