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Thursday, Sep 16, 2010County: Richmond
Case Images: 1 files available
Alleged: Tino Garuccio
She felt lucky to find a fellow dog lover to take care of her precious pets while she took care of her dying mother.
But after burying her mother weeks later, West Brighton resident Angela Correa was in for more heartbreak: Her two dogs had been found locked in a dark basement bathroom, abused, dehyrdated and malnourished.
Cha Cha, a six-pound female teacup Chihuahua, had three broken ribs and an untreated ulcerated eye that later had to be removed, according to a spokesman from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Chee Chee, a male rat terrier, was down to three and a half pounds -- about half his normal weight, Ms. Correa said.
Tino Garuccio, a 36-year-old school bus driver from Eltingville, now faces up to a year in jail for allegedly starving the dogs and neglecting to give them medical attention. Garuccio turned himself in yesterday to the 123rd Precinct in Tottenville, where he was charged with two counts of torturing and injuring an animal, a misdemeanor.
He is due in court Nov. 23.
"Oh my God! It was brutal," Ms. Correa said, recalling the first time she saw the condition of her helpless dogs. "Cha Cha was tearing blood. When I picked her up, it was like holding a bag of bones."
Ms. Correa met Garuccio at a divorcee support group more than a year ago, she said. The two often set up play dates for their children. He seemed like a nice guy, Ms. Correa said.
"He is really good at fooling people," she claimed.
Reached by phone, Garuccio denied that he mistreated the dogs, claiming that he was only charged because the dog had an eye infection. He could not explain why the dogs were found in such poor condition.
"They weren't my dogs. I was waiting for the owner," he said.
When Ms. Correa's mom was diagnosed with kidney failure in early August and given weeks to live, Garuccio volunteered to care for the tiny canines while she spent her last days with her mother in a Manhattan hospital.
As the weeks passed, however, Ms. Correa said she had a hard time getting in touch with him. She tried to pick up her dogs when she returned to Staten Island after her mother's funeral in mid September, but he allegedly told her he had "brought them camping with him in upstate New York."
Fortunately, a gas leak on Sept. 16 prompted his landlord to inspect Garuccio's basement apartment on Bathgate Street. When he heard dogs yelping in the bathroom, he opened the door to find Cha Cha and Chee Chee laying in the dark among their own feces.
The landlord called the ASCPA, which brought Cha Cha to the Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in Upper Manhattan. A veterinarian there determined the dog's infected eye had been untreated for more than two weeks and was inoperable, and her three ribs had been broken three weeks earlier. Both dogs were also severely dehydrated and malnourished.
One of the reasons it took weeks to charge Garuccio was the vets had to eliminate any underlying medical reason for Cha Cha's weight loss, other than neglect, ASPCA spokesman Joseph Pentangelo said.
After weeks in the hospital, Cha Cha finally came back home Oct. 1.
"They are both doing really well now," Ms. Correa said of the dogs..
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