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Authorities: Battle Lake dog owner slit animal's throat in fit of rage

BATTLE LAKE - A 23-year-old Battle Lake, Minn., man faces animal cruelty charges after telling investigators he slit his dog's throat in a fit of rage because she wasn't trainable.

Benjamin James Stavaas is charged in Otter Tail District Court with leaving the German shepherd mix for dead around June 15.

Court records say:

Stavaas initially told an Otter Tail County sheriff's deputy that he slit the dog's throat after she was hit by a car to end her suffering.

But after investigators showed Stavaas a veterinarian's report that didn't support his story, Stavaas said he got mad at his dog, whose name is Star, when she chased a car after he let her outside.

"The defendant reported he became infuriated, very frustrated and very mad," the court complaint states. "He stated he called the dog back and he then returned to the house, grabbed a knife, went outside and slit the dog's throat."

Star wandered into a rural Fergus Falls yard about a week later and was taken to a veterinarian.

The laceration appeared to be caused by two incisions that form a Y pattern, suggesting that they were intentionally and maliciously inflicted, court records say.

Star had surgery last week and is in foster care while the Otter Tail County Humane Society reviews adoption applications.

Humane Society Manager Ericka Stoltenberg said she's encouraging people to contact the court to ask that Stavaas get the maximum penalty.

"This was a coward's way out," Stoltenberg said.

Stavaas is charged with two felonies, two gross misdemeanors and two misdemeanor charges related to torturing and mistreating the dog.

The maximum penalty for the felony is two years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

Heather Brandborg, assistant Otter Tail County attorney, said most animal cruelty cases her office has handled involve neglect rather than aggression.

"This case is much different from cases we've seen in the past," Brandborg said, adding that the case appears to have outraged the community.

Stavaas is being summoned to court on July 26 for an initial court appearance. A phone listing for Stavaas could not be found.

He has a 2006 conviction in Wadena County for terroristic threats and domestic assault.

Donations for Star have poured in to the Humane Society, more than covering the cost of the operation, Stoltenberg said.

Star loves her foster family and may be able to live there permanently, she said.

"She's doing so much better now that she can be with someone," she said.

Stavaas told investigators he was unable to control the dog and no amount of training helped, court records say.

Stoltenberg said the dog, about 1 year old, is not badly behaved and probably needed more exercise.

"All she needed was somebody to teach her a few things," Stoltenberg said.