By Annie Bernberg
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced the creation of a new animal cruelty prevention unit and tip hotline earlier this week to handle animal cruelty, neglect and abuse cases.
The unit’s mission is to protect pets and defenseless animals, Rice announced in a written statement Monday.
“This newly created unit will give a voice to the victims of animal abuse, and send the message that the abuse and neglect of animals is not tolerated in Nassau County,” Rice said. “The Animal Cruelty Unit will do everything possible to ensure that those who endanger pets and other animals will face the full brunt of the criminal justice system.”
According to the Nassau District Attorney’s Office, the unit will deal with all felony and misdemeanor cases including animal abandonment, severe physical abuse, domestic violence-related abuse—such as violence against a significant other’s pet or use of violence to ensure silence of child sex abuse victims—and neglect, such as deprivation of food, water, medical care and other necessities.
Prosecutors within the new unit will also offer training courses for law enforcement agencies and give presentations for animal rights groups, the office said.
Its creation comes in the wake of a recent conviction in an animal abuse case in Bayville that dates back to 2007. According to the district attorney’s office, peace officers from the nonprofit Nassau SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) responded on July 31, 2007 to the home of Giuseppe Milito and wife Silvana Gamen-Milito, both 50, after a neighbor filed a complaint about the condition of their pet German Shorthaired Pointer. Officers found the canine, named Liko, “emaciated” in their backyard and appearing “weak and listless,” according to the office.
On Jan. 29, 2009, Nassau County District Court Judge David Goodsell found the Militos guilty of nearly starving Liko to death and the duo were convicted of misdemeanor Animal Cruelty in First District Court in Hempstead. They will be sentenced March 16 and face a year in jail. Adding injury to more injury, the abuse came even as the canine was suffering from a potentially fatal infection, according to Rice’s office.
The district attorney had strong words about the case in a written statement announcing the couple’s conviction: “This is appalling,” Rice said. “To treat a defenseless animal this way is disgusting, immoral, and as long as I am DA it will be criminal. This verdict will ensure that Liko won’t have to go back to this family and to this miserable life.”
Since the Molitos’ arrest, Liko, who weighed a mere 23 pounds when discovered by authorities, has been living with the veterinarian that treated her.
In addition to the newly created unit, Rice also announced the establishment of an anonymous hot line for Nassau County residents to report animal abuse to ensure what happened to Liko, or worse, doesn’t happen again. Residents are asked to call 516-680-8624 to report such abuses.