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Woman whose dog was killed says Idaho's animal cruelty laws are 'lacking'

The man who killed Carmen Garshelis's dog, Stanley, in Star pleaded guilty to misdemeanors.

STAR, Idaho — Editor's note: Video posted above contains an error that was corrected at the end of the story during the News at Ten on Dec. 22, 2021.

A Star woman is seeking justice after her ex-boyfriend shot and killed her golden retriever.

Carmen Garshelis took a trip with her children in August of 2021 to Salt Lake City for the weekend, and had her ex-boyfriend Aaron Bennett look after her 4-year-old dog, Stanley. In the middle of her trip, Garshelis received text messages from Bennett and an image that showed a broken wooden fence. According to Garshelis, Bennett insinuated that the dog had broken through the fence and ran away.

“I went ahead and started at point A, where my dog had supposedly run away, and that's where I saw that there was some hair that was cut at the base of the fence and it had been placed there by Aaron. I could tell that it was cut, so it tipped me off that something was wrong,” Garshelis said.

The day after Garshelis returned home, Bennett had confessed to shooting Stanley and putting his body in the Boise River with the help of Matthew Vraspir, his half-brother.

Vraspir confessed to helping. He resigned from his position on the City of Star’s Parks, Art and Beautification Committee. According to Garshelis, he also withdrew his bid in the race for city council.

"They both were charged with essentially a littering type of offense," said Garshelis’s attorney, Adam Karp, who is the owner of Animal Law Offices.

Bennett was sentenced to 180 days in jail for each of two misdemeanor counts. Most of that sentence was suspended, except for 20 days in jail and two years probation. Garshelis said Vraspir was sentenced to 180 days in jail with 175 days suspended and two years probation.

"I personally don't think it's sufficient, in my opinion. The behavior here rose to the level of felony,” Karp said. “Idaho has an animal cruelty statute and it is a felony statute, but it requires the third strike. So really the first two times it's treated like a misdemeanor, which is really quite a departure from the rest of the country. Almost every other state has a first-offense felony.”

"The laws that we have in this state are really lacking whenever it comes to protecting our domesticated animals," Garshelis said.

According to Garshelis, Bennett never hurt her or her dog before.

"He knew Stanley was a family member to us. I don't even know what to say to somebody that would do something like that. I don't even know if I can get through to someone like that,” she said.

Garshelis has filed a civil action seeking damages from the two men to compensate her for the value of Stanley’s life and their actions against him.

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