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      PETA urges counseling in 'gutted puppy' case

      Jesus Javier Martinez

      An animal TMs rights group is urging that two Brownsville teens accused in the gutting death of a puppy undergo psychological counseling and be kept away from contact with animals.

      Brownsville police arrested 18-year-old Mario Gasca and 17-year-old Jesus Javier Martinez last week.

      Gasca is accused of using gardening sheers to kill a neighbor's puppy in retaliation for being accused in a burglary case.

      Martinez is accused of laughing and encouraging Gasca to both hurt and kill the dog.

      The two men are out on bond but People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released an open letter to Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos regarding their case on Monday.

      In the letter, animal cruelty caseworker Kristin DeJournett asked Villalobos to secure special conditions against Gasca and Martinez if they are convicted.

      PETA is asking that Gasca and Martinez undergo psychological evaluation and mandatory counseling at their own expense.

      The group is further requesting that they be prohibited from contact with animals for as long as possible and that authorities seize any animals in their care.

      The organization told Action 4 News that they first learned about the case after reading a story about the teens' arrests on VALLEYCENTRAL.COM.

      DeJournett called the acts violent and sadistic adding that animal cruelty is a red flag to more troubling criminal behavior.

      "Experts agree that it is the severity of the behavior"not the species of the victim"that matters," DeJournett wrote in her letter.

      The Cameron County District Attorney's Office did not immediately repsond for comment but released a statement two days later:

      We take animal cruelty serious at the DA TMs office, as it has shown itself to be a precursor to escalating violence by the perpetrator," District Attorney Armando Villalobos said in the statement. "As we have with all cases, we will carefully review the case and take the appropriate action.

      Unedited Copy of PETA's Letter:

      Dear Mr. Villalobos:

      We hope this letter finds you well. We are writing regarding a recent case of cruelty to animals that your office is handling. The case involves Mario Gasca, 18, and Jesus Javier Martinez, 17, of Brownsville. The men face charges stemming from an alleged December 16 incident during which Gasca"who was reportedly angry after he was accused of burglarizing a nearby home"fatally attacked a 9-year-old girl TMs puppy. According to officials, Gasca kicked the puppy 15 feet through the air from a running start. Gasca allegedly took another running kick at the crying animal, then reportedly began stabbing the puppy repeatedly in the body and mouth with a pair of garden shears. Martinez reportedly laughed and shouted encouragements as the attack continued. After the attack, Gasca allegedly dumped the animal TMs body in a canal.

      Mental health professionals and top law enforcement officials consider animal abuse to be a red flag. The American Psychiatric Association identifies cruelty to animals as one of the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorders, and the FBI uses reports of animal abuse in analyzing the threat potential of suspected and known criminals. Experts agree that it is the severity of the behavior"not the species of the victim"that matters.

      On behalf of our thousands of members and supporters in Texas, we respectfully ask that, if convicted, the accused be required to undergo (in addition to serving a period of incarceration) a thorough psychological evaluation followed by mandatory counseling (and anger-management classes, if applicable) at their own expense. The safety of the community may depend on it. Given the violent and sadistic nature of their alleged actions"and because repeat crimes are the rule rather than the exception among animal abusers"we implore your office to take every measure necessary to ensure that the defendants, if convicted, be prohibited from contact with animals for as long as possible and that all animals who may be in their respective charges be immediately seized.

      Thank you for your diligence in this matter and for your time and consideration.