ABUSE: Felony charge lodged after witnesses recorded audio of the beating.
NEW YORK -- A Town of Royalton man is facing a felony animal abuse charge after nearby witnesses recorded the sounds of him beating a seven-month-old puppy.
The incident was not the first time Niagara County Sheriff's Office deputies were called to 8369 Rochester Road over suspicion that Jay Kenneth, 33, was beating the puppy, which he named Spike.
Deputies noticed that Spike appeared sick and underweight and ordered Kenneth to take the Doberman Pinscher to a local veterinarian. The vet did not see any signs of injuries and concluded Spike was healthy. Kenneth got him back.
SPCA Cruelty Investigator and New York State Peace Officer Lauren Zaninovich advised the witnesses to record the beating sounds, should they hear them again.
At about 3 a.m. April 5, the witnesses heard the sounds again and recorded them while waiting for police.
That "disturbing" recording captured Spike screaming in between Kenneth's shouts and what sounded like him beating the puppy with an unidentified object, Lewis said.
When deputies arrived, they noticed Kenneth had bite-marks on his hand, and Spike appeared to be afraid of his owner. At one point, Spike tried to hide beneath the deputies' legs.
The witnesses also told deputies they had previously seen Kenneth grab Spike by his scruff and drag him up a flight of stairs into his second-floor apartment.
The recording is reportedly a brief snippet of a beating that lasted several minutes.
"I think the evidence is pretty clear," Lewis said.
Zaninovich immediately seized and transported Spike to Companion Care Animal Hospital in Wheatfield, where Spike was given a full examination. Veterinarians found no visible physical injuries, but found that Spike has an "exaggerated pain response" as well as the wild energy typical of puppies.
What's more, Lewis noticed telltale signs of animal abuse.
"When he came back to the shelter from the vet, I had to go and say hi to him. He was very happy to see me, but submissively urinated when I reached for him," Lewis said. "Once we made friends, he was in my lap."
Lewis added that it can be difficult to find signs of physical abuse, particularly with black dogs like Spike.
As a result of those signs and the audio recording, Kenneth was charged with one count of felony animal cruelty. He was released on an appearance ticket and is due in Town of Royalton Court on April 20.
"We are grateful for the help we received in this case from both the Niagara County Sheriff's Department and Town of Royalton Dog Control," Zaninovich said. "Both were on scene the morning we seized Spike and both provided supporting depositions to secure an arrest warrant for Kenneth."
Despite the arrest, Spike is not indefinitely free of Kenneth. Should he be found innocent of the charges, Kenneth could have Spike returned to him. Lewis recalled a case in Niagara Falls in which an owner was videotaped beating his dog and still later had the animal returned to him.
The Legislature recently passed a resolution allowing judges to require those who plead down to their animal abuse charge to a violation to register with the animal abuse registry.
Lewis says the SPCA relies on assistance from the community and local police agencies to pursue animal cruelty cases.
To report suspected animal cruelty in Niagara County, call 731-4368, ext 302.
(Lockport Journal - April 8, 2017)