Riverhead man charged with animal cruelty

A Riverhead man was arrested Friday and charged with slaughtering animals at his Sound Avenue property.

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney announced the arrest of Carlos Lauro, 76, who is accused of aggravated cruelty to animals and other related charges for allegedly fatally shooting two German shepherds with a rifle.

“This is a particularly horrific example of cruelty,” Mr. Tierney said in a release. “While we unfortunately could not rescue all of the animal victims that our investigators found on this defendant’s property, we will seek justice for them.”

Mr. Lauro has been the subject of repeated complaints to the town regarding conditions and activities at his Sound Avenue property, officials said. 

Responses to his location by town code enforcement officials have revealed and led to prosecutions by the Riverhead town attorney’s office for “illegal animal sales, attempts to operate an illegal slaughterhouse, dilapidated and illegal structures, loose farm animals and general property maintenance,” said town attorney Erik Howard. 

“The Riverhead town attorney’s office applauds the Suffolk County District Attorney’s prosecution of Mr. Lauro and is prepared to assist in any way necessary to secure a conviction for Mr. Lauro’s reprehensible conduct and wanton disregard for the life of a companion animal,” Mr. Howard said. 

“Animals, whether dogs or goats, sheep or chickens, experience terror and fight for their lives just as we would when faced with the prospect of slaughter. Yet for the animals at this illegal backyard slaughter operation, the experience was made even more horrific, with sick and injured animals living among the corpses of their friends,” said John Di Leonardo, anthro-zoologist and executive director of Humane Long Island. “Humane Long Island thanks the Suffolk County and its Biological, Environmental and Animal Safety Team [BEAST] for prosecuting this heinous case of aggravated animal cruelty.”

The current investigation was launched Jan. 10, when a 1-year-old German shepherd was taken to the Westbury Veterinarian Hospital and found to be paralyzed from a gunshot wound to the head. 

According to a witness, the dog, named Blitzkrieg, was found shot at about 5:30 p.m. lying in a pen on Mr. Lauro’s property next to a dead goat. When detectives with the county’s BEAST unit arrived at the home, they learned from a witness that about a month earlier, Mr. Lauro had shot and killed another German shepherd, a 6–month-old puppy named Cranky, because the dog was allegedly refusing to go back inside his house, officials said. 

The allegations in that incident, according to officials, were that Mr. Lauro shot Cranky once in the back and then, when another resident took the dog back inside the house in an attempt to console him and treat his wounds, Mr. Lauro dragged Cranky back outside and shot him in the head. 

At the home, BEAST detectives found eight surviving dogs —five Belgian malinois/Dutch shepherd mixes, a border collie and two German shepherds— along with numerous other animals, including a multitude of goats, pigs, cows and chickens.

On Jan. 11, BEAST detectives assisted by the Riverhead Police Department executed a search warrant against the premises and arrested Mr. Lauro on felony charges for allegedly shooting the dogs. 

Joyce Glass, co-founder of the Fund For Animal Cruelty Treatment of Suffolk, said her organization is “providing costs of care to the [surviving] dogs in this cruelty case as part of our ongoing partnership with the Suffolk County DA’s office.” 

“This is our first case of 2024,” Ms. Glass said, “and FACTS welcomes the opportunity to fill a specific need in this cruelty case and others being prosecuted in Suffolk County. FACTS is able to continue its work with support from the community.” 

Numerous other deceased farm animals, including a baby goat and pig, were observed at the scene. The circumstances of their deaths are still being investigated.

Further investigation revealed that the surviving dogs, goats, pigs, cows and chickens had been subjected to neglect and were living in deplorable conditions without access to clean food and water. Humane Long Island has been assisting the field operation by triaging the victimized farm animals to appropriate foster care.

While the investigation is ongoing, Mr. Lauro has been initially charged with one count of aggravated cruelty to animals, a class E felony, and three counts of neglect of an impounded animal, unclassified misdemeanors.

Riverhead Judge Sean Walter ordered Mr. Lauro held without bail. He is being represented by the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County and was due back in court Jan. 17.