Miracle Puppy Tests Felony Cruelty Law

A passerby heard crying sounds from the woods and investigated. Beneath a pile of boulders, a small puppy was crying and trying to claw its way out of a shallow hole. The would-be rescuer tried to remove the boulders, but couldn’t, and sought help. Soon several people moved the boulders to free the crying puppy. It was clear he had not gotten there himself — a cord with a slipknot was tied around his neck. It had tightened each time the puppy pulled forward to claw his way out of his “grave. “The puppy was in pitiful condition. His neck was swollen. He had bruises on his body and a scrape on his chin, and he was exhausted from his efforts of trying to get out. It got worse. When rescuers took him to Dr. Larry Mauer’s veterinary clinic in Monticello, the vet’s exam revealed that the puppy had been stoned, resulting in leg and hip injuries which rendered him unable to walk. The puppy had also been strangled which caused the swollen neck, and one of his eyes was bloodshot and puffy. But this was one tough pup, and he would make it. His rescuers named him Miracle.

Who had battered this innocent puppy, and why, and what would happen to his abuser? An unbeatable combination came together that brought speedy answers to those questions.

The local paper, Times Herald Record, made Miracle’s ordeal a front page story, betting that someone somewhere would recognize him. Their bet paid off. The day after the story ran, State Police in Liberty, already investigating the case, received an anonymous call which led them to the original owner.

According to police reports, police went to her worksite and saw a “puppies – free to a good home” sign on the wall. They showed her a picture of the battered puppy, and she told them she had given the puppy to fellow employee, William Peoples. Police promptly arrested Peoples and charged him with felony cruelty to animals — the legislation that NYSHA and other animal organizations had worked so hard to get passed last year. Miracle’s case will test that law.

Why did this happen? Why was this puppy beaten and left to die a horrid death? According to police reports, when Peoples got the puppy, he was living in a bungalow colony. Then his workplace provided him with onsite housing — no pets allowed — so he decided to do away with the puppy.

Police further discovered that (William) Peoples was no stranger to animal abuse.

According to police, he had a record in Pennsylvania, which included animal abuse and involuntary manslaughter charges. As a result, at his arraignment, the judge remanded Peoples to jail without bail. The case will go to a county grand jury that will decide what the charges will be regarding Miracle. If the case goes to trial, and he is convicted of felony animal cruelty, Peoples could face up to two years in jail.

Things are looking up for Miracle. The little guy touched the heart of everyone in the community and beyond. Over $8,000 poured into Glen Wild Animal Rescue where Miracle is recuperating. This is well in excess of the cost of the hip and leg surgery that he needs, so the balance will be used for medical care for other needy animals. And Miracle has his choice of homes. Over 200 families have offered him one. Since Miracle deserves the best, there will be some serious screening done before one is chosen.

Three critical components brought about this speedy arrest: a newspaper that cared, State Police who investigated the case thoroughly, and a felony animal cruelty law with teeth. We can be proud of all three, but the law needs to be expanded.

Three critical components brought about this speedy arrest: a newspaper that cared, State Police who investigated the case thoroughly, and a felony animal cruelty law with teeth.

If Miracle had been a baby lamb, his abuser would not have been charged with felony cruelty because farm animals are not covered under the law. His abuser would have been charged only with an unclassified misdemeanor and never been finger-printed; thus, a computer search would not have been run to detect prior offenses. We need to fix that.

Miracle is one spunky pup and his future looks good. In the next newsletter, we’ll update you on his progress and the outcome of the abuse case.

What you can do:

  • Pat yourself on the back if you wrote your legislators in support of the felony cruelty law. Good job. Now write them again and ask them to include farm animals.
  • Write a Letter to the Editor to the Times Herald Record thanking the paper for helping to find an abuser. The address is 40 Mulberry Street, Middletown, New York 10940
  • Write a letter to Major Alan Martin at Troop F Headquarters, 55 Crystal Run Road, Middletown, NY 10941, thanking him for the prompt investigation that his staff conducted.
  • Continue to support NYSHA with your contributions for the work it does to lobby for stronger protective animal legislation. We worked hard to get felony animal cruelty passed, and we will continue to lobby to improve existing laws and enact new laws.

New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XIV, No.2, Summer 2000.