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Animal cruelty case triggers strong emotions

RENO, Nev. -- A Reno animal cruelty case is touching a nerve in the community.

In separate events, there was a court hearing, demonstration and a news conference all centered around 24-year-old Jason Brown. Brown is accused of torturing and killing several dogs. He was arrested last month in a Reno motel.

Investigators said there were four severed dog heads in a small refrigerator and bloody scissors and knives in the room Brown was renting. Police indicate a maid made the discovery. Initially, Brown was charged with five dog deaths, but two more deaths have been added since his arrest in July.

About a half dozen demonstrators gathered outside the Reno Justice Court House on Sierra Street. They carried signs that said, "Dogs Deserve Justice Too," and "No bail for Brown." Brown was scheduled to appear in Justice Court today for a status hearing. However, his case was continued until October 16.

Prosecutor Derek Dreiling said the case was continued because the investigation are still ongoing. He did not indicate whether Brown could face more charges.

Brown's case is prompting a Nevada lawmaker to take action. At the same time as the hearing, a news conference was held to discuss potential legislation requiring anyone convicted of animal cruelty, torture or killing to undergo mandatory counseling.

Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle is behind the proposed legislation. "The FBI has been looking at the link between animal cruelty and the people who perform these acts to move on to perform violent acts against humans. I think now is the perfect time to take a good close look at this."

Sprinkle's proposal is already gaining support from animal advocates and some mental health professionals. "The way I view it is someone who would be found to be an animal abuser/torturer would raise a flag that some sort of an evaluation is needed," said retired psychiatrist Don Molde.

Molde noted there is a paradox about serial killers and animal abusers. "Not all animal abusers turn into serial killers. But if you look at serial killers, or the other end of that equation, it is a very common element of serial killers."

Sprinkle said he sees his proposal as a public safety issue. "When you look and talk to the professionals in mental health and others, they know this link exists so if you can cut it off when somebody is first showing acts of violence to animals, you can perhaps prevent it from moving on to humans."