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animal cruelty

Man convicted of animal cruelty given six months in jail, five years probation, no animal contact order

By Howard B. Owens

Robert L. Williams, found guilty in a jury trial of animal cruelty, will spend six months in jail followed by five years on probation, and during that time, he is to have no contact whatsoever with any animal, Judge Melissa Lightcap Cianfrini ruled on Friday.

"You, sir, are in need of significant supervision," Cianfrini said. "I don't trust you around animals." 

She told him, "no dog sitting" and that he wasn't even to go over to a neighbor's house "to pet the dogs."

The evidence presented at trial, recounted during Friday's hearing, is that Williams was at another person's house, and there were two dogs in crates there, and Williams poured bleach into the eyes of the dogs. 

Both dogs required medical treatment, and both dogs fully recovered, though Assistant District Attorney Robert Zickl noted, "there's no vision test for a dog."

Williams was convicted under New York's Ags and Market Law, and while the counts are felonies, the maximum sentence on each count is two years.  The terms could have been served consecutively.

Cianfrini said she struggled with the decision because what Williams did was reprehensible.  However, in another pending case, where dogs were left in cages to potentially die -- and one of them had to be euthanized -- the defendants accepted plea offers that could mean they avoid any jail time.

The sentence Cianfrini handed down, she said, "significantly punishes you and ensures society that you're not going to be around animals and will not own animals and not have contact with animals for a long time."

The dogs belonged to the girlfriend of a person Williams was living with at the time of the incident.  Williams paid $158 in restitution for veterinary bills.

Cianfrini also ordered Williams to undergo a mental health evaluation and abide by any recommendations for treatment.

Any deviation by Williams from the term of his probation, Cianfrini said, would carry harsh consequences.

Zickl argued for the maximum jail term -- and even though animal cruelty is a felony and carries a maximum of more than a year, the sentence cannot be served in prison -- because of the depraved nature of the crime. 

"His conduct was absolutely pointless and cruel," Zickl said.

Zickl said there is an incident report filed by Le Roy PD prior to this incident that also contained an allegation that Williams poured bleach into a dog's eyes.  In that case, the owner declined prosecution once the dog quickly recovered.

The ADA said Williams should be removed from the community for as long as possible.

Fred Rarick, representing Williams, called the Le Roy report "hearsay" and encouraged Cianfrini not to consider it in her decision.

He provided Cianfrini with about a dozen letters from community members in support of Williams that described Williams as a good person who treated animals well (which led to Zickl, when he next got an opportunity to speak, to say that if the Le Roy report was hearsay, so were the letters).

Rarick said his client, "accepts the verdict of the jury though he respectfully disagrees with the verdict," and while not discounting the harm done to the dogs, they did recover. 

His client, he said, sought a probationary sentence because he loves his daughter dearly and wants to be able to care for her.

"Given the opportunity, he has shown he has the ability to comply with any court orders," Rarick said. "The record shows he will do so and that he is an asset to other people."

When Williams addressed the court, he "respectfully" requested to be placed on probation, noting that he had no other criminal history, no domestic violence charges, that he's abided by the terms of court orders during his divorce proceedings, and that he wants to be able to continue to work so he can take care of his daughter.

At the end of the hearing, Williams was handcuffed and taken to the Genesee County Jail to begin his six-month term.

Former owners of abandoned pit bulls admit to animal cruelty

By Howard B. Owens


"Brad Pitt" can finally move into a new forever home after his former owners accepted plea deals in County Court today that include them surrendering ownership of the dog, who was found abandoned and feces-covered in an apartment in May.

"Brad Pitt" is the name given to the male pit bull after he was brought into the shelter. His female companion was in such poor health after being abandoned in Apt. 60, 337 Bank St., Batavia, that she had to be euthanized.

The two dogs had apparently been bred and then left in cages without food in the apartment by  Andrew A. Searight, 35, and Jerrtonia A. Scarbrough, 24.  By the time they were discovered, they were both near death.

Under terms of the plea agreement offered by District Attorney Kevin Finnell, Searight and Scarbrough entered guilty pleas to two counts of cruelty to animals under Ag and Markets Law in exchange for a one-year term of interim probation.  They must abide by all the terms of probation and perform 150 hours of community service.

If they successfully complete the program, they can return to court in December and plead guilty to misdemeanor charges, at which time they can be sentenced again to either a term of probation or up to a year in jail on each charge.

Legally, they cannot be prevented from ever owning animals again, but under the terms of the agreement, they will not be allowed to own animals while under the court's supervision.

Finnell said he thought Searight should be required to serve his community service in an animal shelter so that he might better understand the trauma to animals when they're mistreated, but he said he understood that shelters might be reluctant to take him on as a volunteer given his conviction.  

Judge Melissa Lightcap Cianfrini concurred but said whatever community service Searight takes on, he is to inform her and get her approval before proceeding.

She said she personally wanted to closely monitor his probation and community service.

Searight and Scarbrough came into court together with an infant in a carrier.  They now live in Niagara County, and their terms of probation will be supervised by Niagara County's probation department, but their community service will be monitored by Genesee Justice.

Searight admitted in court that he abandoned the dogs and failed to provide proper sustenance and care, leading to the death of one of the dogs.  He agreed to pay restitution for the medical care and shelter of the male dog.

Photo: File photo of "Brad Pitt" by Howard Owens.

Walmart dog-in-hot-car rescue in Batavia July 27 prompts PETA to issue urgent warning

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Batavia, N.Y. – Following recent reports that  a dog had to be rescued from a hot car in Batavia, PETA -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- is issuing an urgent warning about the importance of  never leaving animals in hot vehicles.

Twenty-four animals have  already  died  this year  from heat-related causes, and because COVID-19 is prolonging store wait times and errands, PETA is concerned that  this summer could see an unprecedented number of hot  weather–related animal deaths.

On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to 100 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 109 degrees in less than 10 minutes.

Dogs, who don’t sweat and can cool themselves only by panting, can rapidly succumb to heatstroke, even if a vehicle is parked in the shade with the windows slightly open, which has little to no effect on lowering the temperature inside.

Anyone who leaves animals outside to suffer in severe weather may be  prosecuted for cruelty.

The following tips will help keep animal companions safe in hot weather:

  • Keep animals indoors, and leave them at home when it’s hot outside.  Unlike humans, dogs can sweat only through their footpads and cool themselves by panting, so even brief sun exposure can have life-threatening consequences. Anyone who sees animals in distress and is unable to help should note their locations and alert authorities immediately.
  • Never leave an animal inside a hot vehicle.  Temperatures can quickly soar in parked cars, and a dog trapped inside can die from heatstroke within minutes—even if the car is in the shade with the windows slightly open, which has little to no effect on lowering the temperature inside the car. PETA offers  an emergency window-breaking hammer  for help with intervening in life-or-death situations.
  • Avoid hot pavement. When outdoor temperatures reach the 80s, asphalt temperatures can climb to 140 degrees, causing pain, burns, and permanent damage to dogs’ paws after just a few minutes of contact. Walk dogs on grass whenever possible, and avoid walking in the middle of the day. 
  • Never run with dogs  in hot weather—they’ll collapse before giving up, at which point, it may be too late to save them.

PETA has released a hot-car public service announcement featuring Mckenna Grace. For more information, visit

Caller reports pregnant dog abandoned on Hopkins Road in Corfu

By Billie Owens

A caller to the Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center, who is roadside in a black Buick sedan, reports someone abandoned a pregnant dog in the area of 7921 Hopkins Road, Corfu.

The caller is near the Akron Road intersection, waiting for law enforcement to respond, and they have been dispatched.

Two dogs locked in vehicle in Walmart parking lot

By Billie Owens

Two dogs are reportedly locked in a vehicle in the Walmart parking lot and an animal control officer is responding. The dogs are in a blue Mitsubishi that is parked in the first row outside the grocery store entrance. It's currently 75 degrees.

UPDATE 4:21 p.m.: The animal control officer is at the scene and asks dispatch to have Walmart management page the registered owner and have that person step out to speak with the officer.

Schumer lauds long-overdue law that will close loophole and help curtail animal cruelty

By Billie Owens

Press release:

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced, following his years-long support and advocacy, his legislation, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, has unanimously passed the Senate and will now head to the president’s desk for signature.

The bipartisan PACT Act, introduced in the Senate by senators Pat Toomey [R-PA], Richard Blumenthal [D-CT], Dianne Feinstein [D-CA] and Dick Durbin [D-IL], and cosponsored by Schumer, closes a loophole created by the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act.

The law criminalized the creation and distribution of videos depicting the torture of animals, but prevented federal law enforcement from prosecuting abusers.

Once the PACT Ace is signed into law, Schumer explained, criminals that are caught torturing or otherwise harming animals can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and even sentenced to up to seven years in prison.

“For far too long, animal abusers have used a loophole to avoid penalties or repercussions for their heinous acts," Schumer said. "The maiming and torturing of innocent animals is abhorrent and will now finally be a federal felony, punishable to the fullest extent of the law.

"After years of supporting the PACT Act, I’m delighted that it’s finally headed to the president to be signed and become law."

“Time and again, we’ve seen the linkage between animal cruelty and cruelty and crimes against people," said Libby Post, executive director, New York State Animal Protection Federation. "It is essential to take pro-active steps to curtail animal crimes and give law enforcement the tools they need to stop these crimes.

"Shelters across New York are partners with law enforcement and district attorneys that tackle animal cruelty. Many shelters across the state give safe harbor to the animals who survive this abuse. The New York State Animal Protection Federation stands with Senator Schumer in fighting animal crimes and thanks him for standing up for animals. The PACT Act is a crucial step forward and we have Senator Schumer to thank for it."

Though Schumer supported the PACT Act during the last two Congresses as well, it ultimately failed to pass in the House of Representatives. The PACT Act was reintroduced this year by Senators Blumenthal, Toomey, Feinstein and Durbin, and garnered a bipartisan group of 41 cosponsors, including Schumer.

Despite the federal animal crush video law enacted in 2010, banning the creation, sale, and distribution of videos that show live animals being intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other heinous abuse, Congress failed to make the act of crushing a federal crime.

Therefore, even when there was overwhelming and substantiated evidence that torture is taking place, current federal law only prohibits and criminalizes animal cruelty if the offenders create and sell videos depicting the abuse, leaving federal law enforcement unable to arrest known abusers or protect the animals. The PACT Act ensures that those found guilty of torturing animals face fines, felony charges, and up to seven years in prison.

The PACT Act is supported by the Humane Society of the United States, Animal Wellness Action, National Sheriffs' Association, Fraternal Order of Police, and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and more than 200 law enforcement agencies across the country.

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the companion bill on Oct. 23 with 301 cosponsors.

Batavia man accused of starving, neglecting puppy was in court Tuesday

By Billie Owens


Suspected puppy abuser Brandon Joseph Welch was in Batavia City Court Tuesday afternoon for discovery and pretrial motions in his case.

The 23-year-old, who lived at an apartment on East Main Street in the city at the time of his arrest Oct. 18 (above photo), is charged with falsely reporting an incident in the third degree (for claiming he found the starving puppy); torturing/injuring/not feeding an animal; and owning/harboring an unlicensed dog -- all misdemeanors.

He was also charged with making a terroristic threat, a Class D felony, for allegedly threatening to shoot the next police officer who showed up at his home. The status of that charge is unclear because of difficulties the prosecution has had with getting two witnesses, who live out of the area, to travel to Batavia to testify.

That was why bail for the felony was moot at Welch's last court appearance Oct. 25 when City Court Judge Robert Balbick set Welch's bail at $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond solely on the misdemeanors.

At some point, Welch got out on bail; he sat with a buddy at the back of the gallery Tuesday until his case was called after 2:30 p.m. He stood with his private counsel Frank Ciardi before Judge Balbick; Welch was clad in a long-sleeved, medium-blue dress shirt and dark gray pants, his brown hair in a burr cut and beard neatly clipped.

Ciardi told the judge they would like the case "to come to a disposition" (rather than go to trial). 

First District Attorney Melissa Cianfrini said she is not sure of the terms or status of plea negotiations with District Attorney Lawrence Friedman and must confer with him about it.

"The sooner we can resolve this the better," Balbick said.

The next court appearance is set for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29.

The emaciated 9.2-pound pit bull mix pup -- named "Opal" by the Volunteers for Animals at the shelter -- was found roadside by a Good Samaritan in Stafford on Oct. 4. Welch was arrested after a tip to police.

Opal was nursed back to health by vets and volunteers and subsequently adopted.

Three other animals in Welch's care were seized from his home -- a bearded dragon lizard and two other mixed-breed dogs.

Welch is not liable for vet and shelter bills for the animals because he forefeited ownership of them.


City resident accused of threatening to shoot cops in case of starving, neglected pup

Suspected puppy abuser gets bail, forfeits pet ownership

City resident accused of threatening to shoot cops in case of starving, neglected pup

By Billie Owens


A 23-year-old City of Batavia man suspected of starving and neglecting a puppy found by a Good Samaritan in Stafford on Oct. 4 has been arrested.

Brandon Joseph Welch was arrested in the afternoon on Oct. 18 at his residence, 679 E. Main St., apt. 4H, and jailed without bail for allegedly making a terroristic threat to police, among other charges.

Batavia police executed a search warrant at his apartment in connection with the animal abuse case of a pup Volunteers for Animals at the shelter dubbed "Opal." That animal is now in foster care.

According to Batavia Police Det. Eric Hill, police got the warrant after receiving a tip from a witness.

Welch initially told police that he had found the puppy, a fawn-and-white colored female weighing only 9.2 pounds when rescued. The dog was not able to stand on its own and was covered in urine and feces, and was severely dehydrated and malnourished.


The police investigation determined Welch was "supposed to be caring for the dog," Hill said.

Welch said "he was going to shoot the next police officer who came to his apartment," Hill said, and police recovered firearms in Welch's possession.

Welch is charged with making a terroristic threat, which is a Class D felony, as well as falsely reporting an incident in the third degree (for claiming he found the animal); torturing/injuring/not feeding an animal; and owning/harboring an unlicensed dog.

He was arraigned the same afternoon, last Thursday, and is due in Batavia City Court tomorrow, at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 24.

The case was investigated by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider, assisted by Officer Jason Davis.

Opal, meanwhile, is looking like a different creature since she's been in foster care and received veterinary care and some decent nutrition. The pictures below -- sitting up smart and standing up strong on all fours, -- were sent to us yesterday by Volunteers for Animals. (Love those ears! Note the wagging tail!)



Help deputy find owner of puppy found wounded, starving, unable to walk, covered in feces

By Billie Owens


(Submitted photos) The condition of the abused puppy at the time she was found last night in Stafford.

The public is asked to help law enforcement find the owner of this emaciated puppy found last night on Route 33 and Prole Road Extension in Stafford.

The fawn-and-white colored female weighs only 9.2 pounds. The dog is not able to stand on its own. It was covered in urine and feces. It is severely dehydrated and malnourished.

The puppy was picked up by a Good Samaritan and turned over to the Batavia City PD and the case is now being investigated by the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.

Due to the nature of the wounds present on the puppy, this is being investigated as animal cruelty.

The puppy was immediately examined and treated by a local veterinarian and was being cared for at the Genesee County Animal Shelter with the assistance of the Volunteers for Animals. They have named her "Opal" and she is now in a foster home until she is well enough to be adopted.

If you any ANY information about the owner of this puppy, please contact Sheriff's Deputy Kevin Forsyth at (585) 345-3000, ext. 3233.

Below, "Opal" today, clean and wrapped snuggly in fleece at the vet's office.


Le Roy PD find cat in duct-taped bin, seek public's help in finding suspect and/or owner

By Billie Owens


Photos and information from the Le Roy Police Department:

The Le Roy Police Department is currently investigating a case of animal cruelty. Early this morning (Sept. 22) patrols located a cat enclosed in a plastic bin. The cat was inside the bin and the lid was duct-taped closed; there were no holes cut in the lid or anyway for air to enter the bin.

The cat appears to be in good health and is being cared for at this time.

The cat is an unneutered male tiger cat and appears to be well fed and taken care of (pictures posted below). 

We are asking for the public’s assistance with any information that could lead to a possible suspect or suspects as well as locating the owner of the cat. 

The Le Roy Police Department takes Animal Cruelty seriously and appreciates the public’s assistance in this matter. 

If you have any information, please contact the Le Roy Police Department at (585) 345 6350.



Caller says dog is barking inside van with windows up in Tops parking lot

By Billie Owens

A dog is barking inside a van in the Tops market that has its windows up, according to a caller to dispatch. The vehicle is said to be closer to Main Street in the parking lot. 

An animal control officer is responding. It's 90 degrees in Batavia.

UPDATE 1:25 p.m.: "I checked that white van; there's no dog in the vehicle," says the responding officer before clearing the scene.

Grand Jury: Man indicted for allegedly injuring Batavia cop, damaging camera at BPD, and man accused of beating, strangling dog

By Billie Owens

Joseph B. James is indicted for the crime of second-degree assault, a Class D violent felony. It is alleged that on May 7 in the City of Batavia that James, with intent to prevent a police officer from performing a lawful duty, caused physical injury to a police officer. In count two, James is accused of the crime of third-degree criminal mischeif, a Class E felony. It is alleged in count two that James damaged another person's property in an amount exceeding $250 -- a surveillance camera and housing in the holding room at the BPD on West Main Street in the City of Batavia.

Shawn M. Twardowski is indicted for the crime of third-degree robbery, a Class D felony. It is alleged that on Jan. 26 in the City of Batavia that the defendant forcibly stole property -- a cell phone. In count, Twardowski is accused of the crime of cruelty to animals, a Class A misdemeanor, according to the state Agriculture and Markets Law Section 353, and it is alleged that he cruelly beat and strangled a dog belonging to a female.

Darrell Smith is indicted for the crime of first-degree coercion, a Class D felony, for allegedly threatening to kill three people on May 6 in the City of Batavia. Smith is accused of compelling or inducing a male to abstain from engaging in conduct in which he had a legal right to engage. Smith allegedly held a knife in his hand and a glass bottle in another as a means of instilling fear in the victim that, if his demand was not complied with, the defendant would cause him physical injury. Smith allegedly threatened the victim with physical injury if the victim were to try and leave the residence before "he produced property demanded by the defendant." In counts two and three, Smith is accused of the same crime on the same day involving another male victim and a female victim, respectively. In count four, Smith is accused of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, a Class A misdemeanor, by applying pressure on the throat or neck of a male victim. In count five, Smith is accused of fourth-degree criminal mischief, also a Class A misdemeanor, for allegedly intentionally damaging another person's property -- a shelving/stereo unit and items displayed or stored on the unit. In count six, Smith is accused of second-degree menacing, another Class A misdemeanor, for allegedly intentionally placing or attempting to place a male victim in reasonable fear of physical injury, serious physical injury or death by displaying a deadly weapon -- a knife.

Man in U-Haul reportedly 'violently handled dog'

By Billie Owens

A caller to dispatch says a man "violently handled a dog" a short while ago before moving out of the Royal Apartments at 103 W. Main St. in Batavia Le Roy.

He and others left in a U-Haul truck, driving on Main toward Tops Market. No other details/description provided.

Law enforcement is responding.

400 Towers resident jailed without bail for allegedly killing his cat by burning it alive in hot oven

By Billie Owens


Mug shots of Darren Annovi.

A 42-year-old man who lives in 400 Towers on East Main Street in the city is charged with aggravated animal cruelty for allegedly killing his cat by putting the live animal in a burning hot oven last night.

Darren Annovi, of Apt. #630, was arrested after firefighters responded to a reported smoke-fire alarm activation call. Upon arrival at 9:08 p.m. on Monday, firefighters found the apartment filled with light smoke. "Further investigation revealed the cause of the smoke to be a deceased cat, located in the oven," says the police report.

"We interviewed the individual in reference to what had taken place and determined he was the one who caused the cat to die," said Batavia PD spokesman Det. Eric Hill. "Our investigation indicates the cat was alive when it was placed in the oven."

Hill said he could not discuss how police made that determination or what Annovi's motive may have been. The cat's age is unknown.

Batavia Police interviewed Annovi then arrested him. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court before Judge Balbick and put in Genesee County Jail without bail. Annovi is to reappear in Batavia City Court at 10 a.m. Wednesdsay. Batavia PD is working closely with the management at Batavia Housing Authority in reference to the case.

Batavia couple jailed without bail after young pit bull scalded with water

By Billie Owens


Brandon Maldonado Melissa Broadbent

A Batavia couple who lives on Walnut Street in the city is facing multiple charges relating to animal cruelty, according to a press release this afternoon from Batavia PD.

Brandon M. Maldonado, 26, of 52 Walnut St., is charged with aggravated cruelty to an animal and offering a false written statement.

His live-in girlfirend, 36-year-old Melissa A. Broadbent, is charged with: "overdriving, torturing and injuring" an animal; endangering the welfare of a child; first-degree coercion; offering a false written statement; intimidating a witness or victim in the third degree; and owning/harboring an unlicensed dog.

Both were arraigned in front of City Court Judge Durin Rogers and put in Genesee County Jail without bail.

On Aug. 3, Batavia Police Officer Flanagan and Animal Control Officer Sheflin received a report that Maldonado poured scalding water on a young pit bull named "Rocky" sometime between July 20-21 at his residence. This resulted in second-degree burns on the dog's shoulders and rib cage, causing considerable pain.

Through the officers' investigation, it was determined that Broadbent lied to the police and instructed her children to do the same thing -- pour scalding water on the dog -- in an attempt to prevent Maldonado from being arrested.

The couple was subsequently arrested. Rocky was taken to a vet where he was treated for his injuries and is now in the care and custody of the GC Animal Shelter.

Landlord concerned about the welfare of a tarantula, snake and cat

By Billie Owens

The landlord of a property on East Main Street in the City of Batavia called dispatch concerned about pets there that may be neglected. His tenant hasn't been home in awhile but the person's tarantula, snake and cat are inside and may be in need. An officer will be responding.

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