Peruvian congressman admits lying about shooting neighbor’s Schnauzer puppy

An opposition congressman under fire for gunning down his neighbor’s pet Schnauzer has not only confessed that he lied about the incident, but that he shot the defenseless pooch with an unlicensed rifle.

“To err is human and I, like any of you, am mortal. I am not beyond committing errors,” Miro Ruiz told reporters late Tuesday in a news conference. “But this does not constitute a justification in any way to avoid my responsibility for this very unfortunate act. So I am here to publicly ask for forgiveness.”

Ruiz’s admission came after five days of adamantly denying that he fired three shots at his neighbor’s 18-month-old pet, Matias, in retaliation for sneaking into his back yard and harassing one of his ducks. One of the bullets fatally pierced the dog’s the chest.

On Friday, a day after the shooting, Ruiz told CPN radio: “I am not a gunman, I don’t carry weapons and I haven’t fired any either.”

“It is incredible how the press has magnified the dog’s death and how everyone is talking about it,” he said incredulously. “I haven’t killed any dogs; I own animals and love them very much.”

But Ruiz decided to come clean under mounting public pressure that included crowds of animal rights activists demonstrating outside the Congress building for two consecutive days.

“I know that every bad action deserves its punishment, so I humbly submit myself to whatever disposition the Congressional Ethics Commission decides,” Ruiz told reporters Tuesday. “I will turn over whatever is necessary that is asked of me with respect to the origin of the rifle in order for there to be a fair, objective and just hearing.”

The shooting elicited expressions of outrage and fear from Ruiz’s neighbors, who told TV news crews that Matias’ murder constituted a dangerous escalation for the congressman, whom they described as a nut who frequently let off steam by firing gunshots into the air.

Ethics Commission member Fabiola Salazar, of President Alan Garcia’s ruling Aprista Party, said Wednesday that Ruiz, a member of the leftist opposition nationalist bloc, should be required to undergo a psychological evaluation.

The Ethics Commission’s chairwoman, Elizabeth Leon, said Ruiz’s case could be referred to the Congress’ Subcommision on Constitutional Accusations “because the illegal use of fire arms is a crime.”

Ruiz contended that he had applied for a gun license and that it was being processed.

But state news agency Andina reported Wednesday that unnamed sources in the Office of Security, Arms, Munitions and Explosives Control said they could not find any record of that application in their registry. The maximum penalty for possession of an unlicenced firearm is four to six years in prison.

Carlos Tapia, adviser to the leader of Peru’s Nationalist Party, Ollanta Humala, reportedly tried to cut a deal with the dog’s owners last week, hoping to quiet the affair. But, Matias’ grieved owner Lina Ventura said she rejected Tapia’s offer of a new dog, which she deemed “a joke.”

“My husband asked him ironically: what would you do if an assassin killed your godchild and then he came, picked up any random person on the street, and told you here’s your godchild?” Ventura said.

When contacted by daily La Republica, Tapia denied offering Ventura another dog. He said that he was simply investigating what had occurred as a concerned resident of the Chaclacayo suburb where the shooting took place − not as a representative of Ruiz or Humala.

“If Ruiz’s responsibility is confirmed, then it is a condemnable act,” Tapia said.

Some government critics suggested the dog’s murder was being manipulated as a political tool to attack Ollanta Humala’s party.

But animal activists amassed outside Congress said ideology has nothing to do the need for an example to be made of Ruiz and for lawmakers to enact a animal cruelty law that has teeth. Currently there are no criminal sanctions for mistreating animals in Peru.

“Justice for Matias,” said Ventura, participating in a protest with activists from the Humanitarian Association for Animal Welfare.

“This isn’t the first time that something like this has occurred,” said Celeste Valladares, a representative from the Peruvian Association for the Protection of Animals. “A few months ago, watchmen from San Borja savagely mistreated a dog and published the video on the Internet. This can’t go on and congressmen must do something to promote the Animal Protection Law.”

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