NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. - A New York man was arrested Monday and faces animal cruelty charges after allegedly cutting off seven puppies' ears with a pair of scissors and without anesthesia, police said.
Michael Anthony Paonessa, 45, of Niagara Falls, New York, was charged with seven counts of aggravated cruelty to animals and seven counts of clipping/cutting ears of dogs, the Niagara Gazette reported. He pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday, the report said.
Police told WRGZ-TV that they first learned of the incident from an anonymous tip through the Niagara County SPCA.
Animal Control Officer Dave Bower of the Niagara Falls Police Department said he was contacted on Sept. 25 by a 32-year-old woman who said her American bully puppies had their ears cut and that she didn't believe it was properly done, according to the paper.
Bower called the suspect's actions "depraved and sadistic," the Gazette reported, citing his police report.
"The (practice of) ear cutting started with dog fighters," Bower told the paper. "They would cut the ears because when dogs fight, they grab for their ears and try to tear them. That causes the dogs to bleed profusely."
Bower said he didn't suspect the puppies' owners intended to use the dogs for fighting, but rather that ear cutting has now become a popular "look" with pit bulls and pit bull mixes, the report said.
"People want their dogs to look tough," Bower said, "so they'll get the ears clipped. But there's no real reason to get the ears cut."
Bower also said that the puppies suffered from a "very brutal procedure," as the suspect cut the animal's ears without anesthesia.
"If you're cutting a dog's ears off without the proper anesthesia and without it being in a medical facility where it can be properly done so these animals aren't suffering it's brutal," Bower told WRGZ-TV.
The puppies' owner told Bower that she gave the puppies to Paonessa on Sept. 14 to have their ears "cut and cropped," the paper reported. She said Paonessa received $250 to cut the ears of all seven puppies, the report said.
"If you take (dogs) to the vet, they'll (cut and clip their ears) under anesthesia and with proper surgical tools," Bower said. "Usually it's about $350 a dog."
Niagara Falls police told WGRZ-TV that the owner of the dogs allowed this to happen to save some money, adding that she had been breeding American bullies and wanted their ears cut off.
"It's cosmetic, it's for an appearance sake for the most part that's why it was done," Bower told the station. "She just knew this guy I guess from the street or whatever and knew that he does this."
The puppies' owner said Paonessa returned the dogs to her about 12 hours after he took them, the Gazette reported. The woman then described the puppies ears as "a mess and not properly stitched up," according to the report. Paonessa told her he "ran out of stitches," she said.
"This has to be done through a veterinary clinic," Bower told the station. "Apparently one of the puppies, the ears became so infected and inflamed that they had to take it to a veterinarian clinic, the owner of the dog did."
Bower said the animals would be properly "stitched and given pain medication" by a veterinarian. The puppies are recovering from their injuries, he said.
The animal control officer said the puppies are still with the owner of the dog, but are being sold, according to the reports.
The Niagara County DA's office will determine whether any additional charges will be filed.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.