By Brandon B. QuinnA story of abuse and survival that captured the attention of Long Island about a year ago is being highlighted once again in an attempt to serve justice and prevent further crimes against animals.
When Joey, a tan-and-white pit bull terrier, was 4 months old, his owner used him as bait to train dogs to fight. When the training was complete, the owner put Joey in a black garbage bag and threw him from a speeding car in Brentwood, fracturing three neck vertebrae.
Suffering from his injuries, which included severely infected bite wounds, and barking due to constant pain, Joey’s life was saved by Dr. Lynda Loudon, the veterinarian who later adopted the puppy with her husband, Tim Sheppard. “Our family loves having Joey around,” said Dr. Loudon, a regular visitor to Sag Harbor, who noted her son John “is Joey’s buddy.”
The Suffolk County SPCA has been offering a $27,000 reward, raised from private donations after the initial story broke in August, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the abuser. Joey’s original owner has not yet been found.
At a press conference last week in Southampton, Dr. Loudon said her foundation, Healing Haven Animal Fund, which has provided funding for urgent veterinary care for animals whose guardian has financial limitations since July 2012, was supporting two bills currently languishing in the State Legislature that would combat animal cruelty.
One bill would create the Animal Cruelty Database, which would compile the names of anyone convicted of animal cruelty, making it more difficult for them to obtain animals in the future. This database will be available to law enforcement officials and humanitarian agencies.
The second bill, called the Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill, seeks to modernize animal abuse laws and move them to the penal code so that they can be better enforced.
State Senator Phil Boyle, sponsor of the consolidated abuse laws, said the impetus was simple. “I’m just a big fan of animals, and this bill is needed,” he said. “You’d think laws against animal abuse were in the criminal code, but they are not. They’re in the agriculture and markets law. Moving them into the penal code will make it easier for police and prosecutors to punish these crimes, because they are more familiar with those codes.”
Mr. Boyle was cautiously optimistic about the future for the bills. “The bills have been around for a couple of sessions. They’re gaining more and more support, especially with stories like Joey’s, and we hope to pass it next session,” he said.
In praising Mr. Boyle for his work on the bills, Dr. Loudon stressed their importance by explaining the possible link between animal abuse and other violent crimes. “If someone can do that to an innocent, defenseless puppy, what else are they capable of?” asked Dr. Loudon. “Domestic violence is often directly related to animal abuse.”
Now able to walk, play and run like a normal dog, Dr. Loudon and Joey plan on walking from Montauk to Manhattan in October to raise money for Healing Haven and awareness for the bills.