Hank’s death leads to cry for tough law

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Courtesy photo The alleged beating of Hank, a red heeler-corgi mix, has former owner Dakota Peacock seeking stiffer penalties for animal cruelty cases in Idaho.

The alleged beating of a dog that a veterinarian calls "morbidly concerning" has the owner and others demanding tougher laws on animal cruelty cases in Idaho.

Hank, an 11-month-old red heeler/corgi mix owned by Dakota Peacock, was allegedly beaten last month by 22-year-old Austin Matott, who was one of her former roommates in Hauser.

Peacock said Hank died in her arms as she was taking him to a veterinarian. Matott has been charged with a misdemeanor of cruelty to animals and a

misdemeanor of beating or harassing animals.

"I'm hoping that, with all the negative coming from Hank's death, it will actually mean something and there will be changes for the better," Peacock said.

Peacock said she and her mother, Jennifer Cook, plan to lobby legislators to make such cases felonies.

"Idaho needs to get caught up with other states," Cook said. "We don't want to just sit back. We want to say that we did the best we could (to seek changes in the law). If people are capable of this with animals, who's to say they won't move on to people?"

The mother and daughter are also working with a local pet group called Lost, Found and Adoptable Pets of CDA to have Matott listed on a national animal cruelty registry if he's convicted.

A court date for Matott hasn't been scheduled. He didn't return a message seeking comment this week.

Matott denied beating Hank in a Facebook post.

"I would never ever ever ever hurt an animal," he wrote. "I've grown up with animals my entire life... I've loved every single one that I have ever had the chance to meet. I have absolutely no idea why anyone would ever, our could ever accuse me of doing such a sick and wrong thing.

"I hope to God that people really do believe me when I say that. I promise that I will get my name cleared, and that this will all wash away over time."

Peacock said Matott indicated that Hank was injured when he fell from a 37-inch deck.

When Cook became suspicious of the death, she exhumed Hank’s body and had it overnighted to the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab at Washington State University.

"This was not just an accident," Cook said. "Hank was beaten."

The pathology report states there were injuries to the brain, ribs, lungs, liver and abdomen.

"There were multiple anatomically distinct lesions on this dog consistent with blunt force trauma," the report states.

Veterinarian Julia Leese called the results "morbidly concerning."

"The injuries that he suffered were consistent with substantial damage from severe force such as being hit by a car, beaten with an object by a person with great strength or falling from three stories or higher," Leese wrote in a letter supporting Peacock's allegations.

"In my professional opinion, it is imperative that we try to locate and prosecute any persons with knowledge of such graphic animal abuse. I feel very strongly that this kind of crime could likely lead to future abusive acts."

Peacock said she and her boyfriend went to Spokane Valley on July 24 and left Hank in Matott's care. The three, along with two others, were roommates at the time.

She said Matott called her to come back to Hauser quickly, but didn't give an explanation of why.

When she returned, Matott had Hank in a wet towel and the dog was not responsive. She said Matott didn't show any remorse and it appeared he had bathed the dog.

Peacock said Hank died in her arms as she was getting ready to take him to Leese for evaluation.

Peacock said she never unwrapped Hank from the towel to look at him closely before he was buried.

During the investigation of the case, blood spots were found throughout the home, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office report. Matott was allegedly evasive during the investigation, according to the KCSO.

Peacock said she can't imagine Hank doing something so bad that someone would take their rage out on him. Like Leese, she worries about a repeat offense and another "slap on the wrist."

Peacock said she took Hank with her everywhere she went, with the night of July 24 being one of the few exceptions.

"He was the cutest dog in the world with giant Dumbo ears," she said. "He had a great personality to him."

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