Pup's Death Tied to Vet's "War Trauma": Family

Defendant's uncle believes a case like this is one where "Support Our Troops" comes into play

By R. Stickney
|  Thursday, Jan 26, 2012  |  Updated 8:13 AM PDT
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Animals in the News

NBCSanDiego

Phillip Shawn Rich (left) at his arraignment and Knight shown with another dog before the beating.

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A San Diego-area man charged with beating a puppy so badly it had to be euthanized is a veteran currently getting treatment for PTSD at the VA hospital, according to his defense attorney.

Phillip Shawn Rich, 26, of Crest, faces one felony charge of animal abuse for the death of his four-month-old male Siberian husky.

Rich brought the puppy, named Knight, to a veterinary hospital Saturday night. After the hospital staff examined the dog, they decided its injuries were so severe the animal had to be euthanized.

Hospital staff called in San Diego County Animal Services once they realized Rich’s explanation of the incident didn’t match the animal’s injuries.

On Wedneday, Rich pleaded not guilty in El Cajon Superior Court.

His attorney requested no bail, explaining that her client has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and is currently receiving treatment at the VA hospital.

The dog suffered head trauma and a collapsed lung and had both hind legs fractured, Deputy District Attorney Ryan Karkenny told the judge.

He added his office is actively investigating a second case of animal cruelty involving Rich but did not go into details at the arraignment.

The judge held Rich on $25,000 bail but ordered he receive treatment for PTSD while in custody.

Rich’s mother Cheryl Winget was visibly upset outside court.

“He’s not the monster that you guys are making him out to be,” Winget said.

Rich’s uncle Samuel Green said his nephew served two tours in Iraq and suffered a traumatic brain injury from an IED explosion.

“He changed markedly from the Phillip we knew before Iraq and after. He knew he had changed and he was concerned,” said Green.

While he said the family doesn’t diminish the crime committed, they do believe the beating was a product of war trauma.

“We know that all that we can do now is help Phillip. This is what 'support our troops' means. This is where 'support our troops' comes into play,” Green said.

Rich's next court appearance will be Feb. 2 for a readiness hearing. He faces up to three years in state prison if convicted.

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