A starving, 1-year-old Rottweiler was found locked in a crate in back of a Riverhead home and officials believe the emaciated dog had not been fed in about two weeks.
The dog is now being cared for at the North Fork Animal Welfare League shelter in Riverhead and has already gained weight.
The dog’s owner is facing possible prison time, according to Chief Roy Gross of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which charged Claire Kim Shands, 28, of Riverhead with misdemeanor animal cruelty for failure to provide proper sustenance, including lack of food, water and a clean environment.
She will be in Riverhead Town Justice Court March 27 on the charge, which carries a penalty of up to $1,000 or a year in jail, according to Mr. Gross.
Ms. Shands, who was renting the site, was arrested Wednesday night, according to the SPCA.
If convicted, Ms. Shands will be required by law to register with the Suffolk County Animal Abuse Registry, Mr. Gross said. Each person registered in the registry shall remain on it for five years following their release and must notify officials of any change of residence.
The town first caught wind of the situation through an anonymous call, according to Riverhead Code Enforcement Officer Nicole Buckner.
“My office received a phone call Tuesday morning about a dog dying in a crate in the rear yard,” she said Thursday. “There was a bunch of litter and other stuff also there.”
She said she called NFAWL shelter manager Eileen Kreiling to respond with her.
“We knocked on the front door,” Ms. Buckner said. “It was clear from some of the paperwork in the front door that no one was there nor had been there for a little bit. We walked around to the rear of the property and noticed a bunch of garbage and everything, and we walked a little further and we saw a small crate which had an approximately 1-year-old Rottweiler puppy in it, who had no water and no food,” Ms. Buckner said.
Ms. Kreiling took the dog to Mattituck-Laurel Animal Hospital, where the vet there estimated it to be 15 to 20 pounds underweight. Ms. Kreiling also contacted SPCA.
Because the crate was so small, the dog couldn’t turn around, and was covered in its own feces, Ms. Buckner said.
In addition to the SCPA charge, 10 code enforcement violations also were issued for things like litter, unregistered car and blocking the back door with a refrigerator.
“There were at least 15 bags of garbage on the property,” Ms. Buckner said.
The dog, who is being called Louie, is currently quarantined at the shelter while he regains his strength and gets cleaned, but he’s likely to make a full recovery and should be available for adoption soon, Ms. Kreiling said.
“He’s a wonderful, sweet boy,” she said as Louie licked her face. “He’s 33 pounds right now and probably needs to put on a good 15 pounds.”
But comparing Louie now to how he looked when he was first brought in shows that he’s already gained a lot of weight.
“Once an animal is taken out of the deplorable conditions and starts being given proper substance substance, they will react,” Mr. Gross said. “But the dog was deprived of the basic elements: Water, air-quality. It’s pathetic what people do.”
Both Ms. Kreiling and Ms. Buckner said Louie is a quiet, friendly dog.
“Over the years, myself and members of the agency have taken in some of these animals that we’ve rescued, and they make the best pets in the world,” Mr. Gross said.
He asked that people who see possible animal cruelty call SPCA at 631-382-7722. The calls are anonymous, he said.
“Animals cannot pickup the phone and make that call,” he said. “If you see something, say something. Otherwise, the animal could die of neglect.”
Top photo caption: Louie pictured in the crate he was found in. (Courtesy of NFAWL).
Middle photo caption: Claire Kim Shands