Less than a week after the Suffolk SCPA announced it was on the lookout for whoever left four kittens dead behind an East Main Street business with their throats slashed, the reward for information leading to an arrest has grown from $1,000 to $5,200.
The kittens – estimated to be about three weeks old each – had been found thrown over a fence behind Riverhead Brake Service last Tuesday morning. The Suffolk SPCA was then notified and word has spread since, most recently gaining a $2,500 reward from the New York City-based ASPCA.
“The public outcry to this heinous act of cruelty has been tremendous,” Gross said in a statement on Wednesday.
Whoever is responsible faces felony animal cruelty charges, which carries up to two years in jail for each animal killed.
Last week, Gross called the culprit – or culprits – a “danger to society.”
“This never ends unfortunately,” he said. “Obviously this is very disturbing.”
Animal cruelty charges brought nearly two years ago against a Flanders woman were dropped in Riverhead Town Justice Court last week.
Marie Tooker, 48, of Flanders Road in Flanders, had been charged with three counts of having malnourished and neglected horses on a farm she owned in Calverton. The Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had brought the charges for an incidents police said occurred in April of 2011.
The charges were dismissed in Riverhead Town Justice Allen Smith’s court last Tuesday on the motion of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, according to court officials.
Representatives from the District Attorney’s office did not return calls seeking comment.
Ms. Tooker had owned Abbess Farm, a 130-acre horse farm on Route 25, and she had frequently said she planned to open a home for homeless veterans and a camp for underprivileged children on that property.
On April 29, 2011, the Suffolk SPCA raided the property and took custody of two dozen horses and other animals. They claimed that two horses were locked in a barn with no food or water and that one of them was malnourished and the other had an eye infection.
Ms. Tooker says she is innocent of the charges and wasn’t even permitted on the land at the time due to a foreclosure procedure brought by her father, Sal Guerrera, and his company, Qwest Ventures.
As part of the foreclosure action, the land had been put under receivership by state Supreme Court Judge Paul Baisley on Feb. 16, 2011 and Ms. Tooker says she was barred from the land as of April 20, 2011.
She claims the court-appointed receiver was responsible for the condition of the horses and other animals on the site at the time.
“The real criminals are being left free, because the act did happen,” she said Friday. “They did lock the animals up with no food or water.”
Ms. Tooker wasn’t charged until July 2011, but those charges had been incorrectly brought in Southampton Town and were dismissed there.
On April 11, 2012, the charges were brought again, but this time in Riverhead Town.
When kayaker Jim MacDougall of Wading River found an injured swan near Indian Island County Park in Riverhead this July, he thought the bird had a branch sticking out its body.
He paddled a little closer and soon realized why the bird was barely moving — someone had shot an arrow through its torso.
The middle school music teacher trapped the usually aggressive animal between the bow of the vessel and his paddle without much conflict. He used his free hand to call authorities.
“He couldn’t even climb up onto the island, he was that injured,” Mr. McDougall said Tuesday from Indian Island. “I got him to that one spot. He was really calm.”
The bird, which was rescued under the County Road 105 bridge, was then brought to the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons in Hampton Bays. At first, the prognosis didn’t look good. It couldn’t walk for weeks and though the arrow had missed all vital organs, caretakers suspected nerve damage.
Its rescuers didn’t even name him.
“We’d be too sad if he died,” said Virginia Frati, the center’s executive director.
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But on a sunny September day, nearly two months after it was found, the swan looked no worse for the wear. On Tuesday the bird, who had been completely rehabilitated, was carried to the Peconic Bay in a plastic bin, wrapped in a burlap sack.
Peaking its head out of the container to look at the swarm of reporters and photographers surrounding it, the swan was quiet and docile as it awaited its return to the wild.
The swan, estimated to be about a year old, was freed and it made its way to a marsh off Indian Island golf course. It was finally returned to the waterway, where it will most likely find a lifelong mate and live out the rest of its years.
“You see so many horror stories and so many bad things, people say ‘how can you [work for this agency]'” said Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Chief Roy Gross, which is still hunting the swan’s attacker. “This makes it worth it.”
Though this story has a happy ending, Chief Gross noted that two other animals cruelty victims were not so lucky. A turtle found with a nail hammered through its shell in Sag Harbor in July is not faring well and a sea gull that had been hit with a rock in Montauk had died.
He noted the incidents may be related.
The SPCA is still pursuing charges against whomever shot the swan, he said. Animal cruelty is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
The Suffolk SPCA is offering a $14,750 reward for anyone with information leading to an arrest in the swan case and $16,000 in the turtle case. The agency is able to offer such a high reward due to a large amount of donations that poured in after photos of the swan ran throughout regional news outlets, horrifying viewers, yet at the same time motivating them to help the investigation along.
Though the swan returned to the wild nameless, Chief Gross had one suggestion for a moniker.
“We should call him Lucky,” he said.