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Animal Defenders of Westchester
P.O. Box 205
Yonkers, NY 10704


No justice in killing of Putnam Valley family's dog

By Phil Reisman
[email protected]
(Original publication: October 13, 2005)

Justice moves slowly in the canine world.

After two adjournments, the felony case against a Putnam Valley man, who witnesses said fatally kicked a dog at a Memorial Day barbecue, will finally be heard in Town Court today.

I supply this information as a small public service because over the last five months many readers have asked me if there was ever a legal outcome to the sad story of Roxi and the answer is no, not yet. In fact, don't be surprised if the case is adjourned again since today is the Yom Kippur holiday. Call ahead if you're interested in going to the court, which is quartered in Town Hall on Oscawana Lake Road. The number is 845-526-3050.

This isn't the trial of the century. But a life is a life, no matter how small. Roxi wasn't just a dog, but a member of a family. She was loved by her owners, Bill and Lisa Sampson, and by the neighborhood children who played with her. According to horrified onlookers, Roxi wandered into the yard of Frank Aquino, 40, who kicked her like she was a football. She crawled away and was later found dead under a tree.

Reports of how she died raced across the Internet, inspiring expressions of rage and sympathy from here to Switzerland. It is foolish to underestimate the torrent of raw emotion that flows from the death of an innocent dog, especially a dog like Roxi, who was 15 years old, slow of foot, hard of hearing and about as threatening as a kitten. Indeed, there are more than a few observers of this case who wish that Aquino could get the prosecutorial treatment of a common murderer. He has apparently received numerous death threats.

My e-mail attests to this level of anger as does the outpouring of letters and phone calls to town and county officials and to the Sampsons.

"I can't tell you how many people have said to me, 'I don't know how you've kept your composure. I would've killed him,' " Lisa said. "That's the sentiment that I'm getting. I hear stories from other people about how their animals were killed. Sometimes they don't know who did it and sometimes they do but can't prove it. It's really awful."

Aquino pleaded not guilty to a charge of aggravated animal cruelty, and if convicted could get up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The Sampsons feel the punishment should be more severe.

What's more, they are lobbying for the passage of a state law that would give aggrieved pet owners more power to pursue civil action. They've established a Web site,, to encourage citizens to support the proposed bill that would allow people to sue "for the loss of companionship, comfort, protection..." but most importantly it recognizes our animals friends as companions instead of property. (In the Assembly, the bill is numbered A03585 and in the Senate, S01789.)

Lisa said that under current law, a lawsuit limits the plaintiff from recovering any more than the combined cost of the medical care, disposal and value of the lost pet as property.

"Right now, a dog holds no more value than a table lamp," she said. "And you know that's not the case."

The Web site in Roxi's memory contains a touching set of pictures of the dog, who was a shepherd mix with soulful eyes. Lisa also included a message saying how much they miss Roxi.

"Someday, we will get another dog, but he/she can never replace Roxi."

But here's another bit of news. The Sampsons did, in fact, get another dog. After Hurricane Katrina struck, they felt that one way they could help out would be to take in a lost or abandoned pet. However, when they discovered that the animal agencies were mostly seeking temporary care and not permanent homes, they contacted Labs 4 Rescue and adopted an unclaimed 6-month-old puppy who was in a foster home in Tennessee. They named him Chance, as in "second chance." He arrived Oct. 1.

When I called earlier this week the Sampsons were playing with him, along with their nearly 1-year-old son, Dylan.

The dog fits right into the family, Bill Sampson said.

"He's unbelievable," he said. "He came in pretty much housebroken. He doesn't chew on anything except what's his. He's cute."

Lisa said Chance is supposed to be a mixed Labrador retriever. She laughed. "There's no Lab in this dog," she exclaimed. "He's really small, but he's gonna get bigger."

Comparisons to Roxi were inevitable.

"When we first got this dog, I was concerned because he wasn't playing or anything," Lisa recalled. "I said, 'Gee, Roxi played more at 15 than this dog.' But he came around."

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