P. O. Box 902, Hudson, New York 12534
Animal law fails in eyes of some
Advocates wonder why felony charges against men accused of slitting dog's throat dropped despite Buster's Law
By BOB GARDINIER, Staff writer
First published: Monday, August 7, 2006
Pet lovers are wondering why a 7-year-old law meant to protect animals failed Frankie, the dog who had his throat slit then was tossed from a car.
The plight of the 2-year-old English spaniel became news May 3 after State Police in Catskill charged Michael Scheir, 32, and Joseph Wheeler, 24, both of Athens, with aggravated animal cruelty.
A Greene County grand jury recently dropped felony charges, deciding the dog's injuries were not life-threatening and thus failed to meet the criteria.
The charges had been brought under Buster's Law, named for a tabby cat that was doused with gasoline and set ablaze in Schenectady.
The law has two legal thresholds that must be met for a charge to be levied. The act should "intentionally cause serious physical injury" and be "intended to cause extreme physical pain or was carried out in an especially depraved or sadistic manner."
The grand jury found the first requirement was not met because the injury was not serious enough, prosecutors said.
Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, who made the law's passage a personal cause, said humans, not the law, are at fault.
"There seems to be this attitude with some that, 'Hey, it's just a dog. It's just a dumb animal,' " said Tedisco, who is the Assembly minority leader. "Does the dog have to be 90 percent dead before the injuries are considered serious? This crime certainly falls within the scope of the law."
Scheir and Wheeler told police the dog nipped at a child at their home on April 18, so they drove Frankie to a remote roadside to dispose of him. According to their statements to police, Scheir had trouble cutting the dog's throat because the knife was not working, so Wheeler took over. They then allegedly tossed the pet out the car's open window and sped off.
Helen Mary Hughes saw the dog dumped on Flats Extension Road in Athens and went to his rescue.
"There was hair all over the ground like there was a struggle and he was standing there shaking and bleeding from the neck," Hughes said. "I knew he needed help right away but could not get anywhere near him because he was so upset.
"I opened the rear car door and he jumped right in. There was blood all over my rear seat by the time I got him to the veterinarian."
Hughes did not appear before the grand jury, but said another witness who got a better look at the car did testify.
"I wish they would have called me because I could have described how bad the dog was," Hughes said. "I can't believe they did not indict them on the more serious charges."
The pair now face misdemeanor animal cruelty and abandonment charges in Athens Town Court.
The case was actually solved by a woman from North Yarmouth, Maine.
Nancy LaMarque, active with English Springer Spaniel Rescue, a group based in Long Island, heard about the case, which went for several weeks without an arrest.
"I called and asked them if Frankie had an embedded computer chip," LaMarque said. "Sure enough, he did."
LaMarque used her contacts in the canine world and discovered the device was a Home Again Pet Recovery Co. microchip implanted by a Midwest breeder.
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