Case Snapshot
Case ID: 15074
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: rodent/small mammal (pet)
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Attorneys/Judges
Judge(s): Jeanne E. LaFazia


For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.



Tuesday, Dec 30, 2008

County: Providence

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Convicted

Defendant/Suspect: Toby Duffany

Case Updates: 2 update(s) available

Police are trying to figure out who left hundreds of dead and dying white rats in containers by the side of a remote road in Foster.

Dr. E. J. Finocchio, president of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the act was deplorable and disgusting.

The 280 rats were found in at least six containers, including glass aquariums and bird cages, by the side of Hemlock Road, a dirt street on Providence Water Supply Board property.

Seventy-two of the rats were dead, sandwiched in layers below the living rats, which had to be euthanized by SPCA workers individually.

Officials believe the rats could have been dumped by an amateur trying to run a business in the sale of feeder rats, which are used as food for snakes and other reptiles.


Case Updates

A judge yesterday ordered the Providence man who left containers crammed with 280 rats on the side of a remote Foster road to pay $1,000 restitution and perform 50 hours' community service after he admitted abandoning the animals.

District Court Judge Jeanne E. LaFazia said she hoped Toby Duffany's service would be dedicated to helping the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals teach people about alternatives to ditching pets, particularly in these tough economic times.

Duffany, 22, faced a single count of abandoning animals after Foster police found the rats, 72 of which were dead, in a clearing off Hemlock Road on Dec. 30. They were wedged into three aquariums, three cat carriers and two birdcages. In one aquarium, live rats, some weighing 2 pounds, were stacked on top of a six-inch layer of carcasses.

Lesions covered some of the animals, and adult rats were devouring their young, said E.J. Finnocchio, a veterinarian and president of the Rhode Island SPCA. He estimated they had been there three days before a passing motorist alerted police.

The police charged Duffany on Jan. 2 after a woman tipped the SPCA off, Finnocchio said. The organization had offered a $750 reward for information after taking the rats into its care.

By state law, the SPCA had to euthanize and cremate the survivors because of uncertainty about their health, Finnocchio said. The SPCA put the total cost of injecting and cremating the animals at $5,000.

The law prevents the rats being euthanized en masse. Each animal had to be put down individually. That involved SPCA members injecting each rat with poison and waiting for the animal to die.

Duffany, a stocky man with short blond hair and glasses, tried to immediately plead no contest at his arraignment yesterday in District Court, Warwick. But LaFazia asked for more information about the case since, she said, he could be facing counts of malicious injury to animals because some of the rats died. The maximum sentence was two years in prison, a $1,000 fine and mandatory 10 hours' community service.

Duffany offered greater detail after talking privately with his lawyer, Christine O'Connell, of the public defender's office.

He was told his fiancée could not bring their newborn daughter into the 5 Woodfall St. home they shared with his mother until the rats were gone, according to O'Connell. At his mother's request, he made "numerous efforts" to find them homes at various pet stores. He left them at the side of the road under pressure following the baby's birth Dec. 26, she said.

The animals belonged to his mother and were well cared for prior to abandonment, O'Connell said. "He simply made a poor judgment."

Finnocchio said investigators told him the Department of Children, Youth and Families instructed the family to remove the rats. Stephanie Terry, assistant director at DCYF, said she could not confirm nor deny the agency's involvement. But, she said, "If we find a situation where animals posed a risk to a child, we wouldn't support removing them in this manner."

LaFazia ordered Duffany to pay the the restitution to the SPCA. The case, she said, would be filed for one year, meaning that it would be erased from his record if he stayed out of trouble. The SPCA will also be able to do sporadic checks of the house.

Duffany declined to speak about the incident when approached outside the small one-story house on Woodfall Street. He said he'd already received enough publicity.

Finnocchio, meanwhile, disputed representations about the rats' care late yesterday.

"How can rats be well cared for when they are piled rat upon rat upon rat and cannibalizing each other?" he asked.

He was not satisfied with the sentence. "I'm waiting for the day to come when the message is sent that in Rhode Island, you will not get away with doing these things," he said.

Duffany, he said, could have been charged with 208 counts of animal abandonment.
Source: Providence Journal - Jan 21, 2009
Update posted on Jan 21, 2009 - 10:09PM 
A Providence man has been charged after more than 250 rats were abandoned in Foster Tuesday night.

Police said Toby Duffany, 23, was arrested and arraigned Friday by a justice of the peace. The Rhode Island Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said a tip led their joint investigation with Foster Police to Duffany.

Duffany told NBC 10 that his girlfriend had given birth on Dec. 26 and that Department of Children, Youth and Families told him he could not bring his daughter home until the rats were gone.

The SPCA said there were more than 200 living rats and more than 70 dead rats dropped off Tuesday night. All of the living rats had to be euthanized for health reasons.

Duffany was released on personal recognizance and will be back in court for a Jan. 21 arraignment.
Source: Turn to 10 - Jan 3, 2009
Update posted on Jan 3, 2009 - 8:01PM 

References

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