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Sunday, Apr 1, 2012County: Cumberland
Case Images: 4 files available
Alleged: Stephanie Ballassi
The SPCA is investigating a case of a Bridgeton woman who allegedly attempted an at-home surgery on her dog and heavily sedated two other pets with narcotics prescribed for human consumption.
Stephanie Ballassi of the 100 block of Harvard Avenue in Bridgeton is facing multiple charges of animal cruelty as the investigation continues, said Bev Greco, executive director of the Cumberland County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
"This is not something we've ever dealt with before," Greco said, noting specific charges had not been filed as of Monday evening.
At 11:43 p.m. Sunday, Bridgeton police were called to Ballassi's home to check on her welfare, Greco said.
When police arrived on the scene, they found a lot of blood apparently from her pets, which were immediately removed from the home and taken to the Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Linwood that provides 24-hour emergency and critical care.
The investigation revealed a husky mix was bleeding profusely from a substantial head wound, Greco said. Vets estimated the "surgery" took place about 12 hours prior to police arriving on the scene.
The blood was splattered throughout the scene likely because the injured dog vigorously shook its head, Greco said. That made it difficult to immediately determine which of the pets was injured.
"The dog is older and had a lot of lumps," Greco said. "Maybe this one on the head stuck out."
But Greco said she couldn't fathom what would "motivate (Ballassi) to cut it off herself."
The wound was a palm-sized hole on the dog's head that Greco said would require surgical care. The dog was being treated at the Millville Animal Clinic.
The way the dog's head was sliced made it a difficult injury to stitch closed, she said.
The other animals found in the house were frighteningly lethargic, Greco said. There were anti-depressants and anti-seizure medication in the house and the animals were being treated as if that's what they'd been given, Greco said.
A long-hair Persian-mix cat was also heavily drugged and crudely shaved down to patches of bare skin in several areas.
Greco noted when a dog undergoes surgery by a licensed medical professional, it usually starts to wake up from anesthesia in about two to three hours after surgery.
But more than 12 hours after being taken from the house, the other husky mix rested in an SPCA pen wrapped in quilts. He was laying flat out and had difficulty holding his head up.
That dog was estimated to be about 4 years old but appeared much older and underweight.
Ballassi is no stranger to the SPCA.
In 2008, SPCA investigators were called out to check on her property. At that time, she had five dogs and four cats on at her home. No violations were issued at that time.
In November 2011, Ballassi reached out to the SPCA. Records show that she turned over two dogs, three cats and a bird to the shelter. Ballassi said she was moving and was limited to two dogs and a cat. However, she continued to reside at the same address.
The SCPA noted the basset hound and German shepherd, who were older, were not in great condition when they arrived at the shelter but they were able to place them in new homes, Greco said.
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