Falls man facing animal cruelty charges

Photo contributed by the Niagara Falls Police DepartmentNiagara Falls police say a city resident is now facing a series of animal cruelty charges for cutting the ears off of seven puppies. 

A Falls man faces multiple felony animal cruelty charges after police accused him of cutting the ears off seven American Bully puppies.

Michael Anthony Paonessa, 45, 1886 South Ave., was charged with seven counts of aggravated cruelty to animals and seven counts of clipping/cutting ears of dogs. He pleaded not guilty to the charges during an arraignment in Falls City Court on Monday. 

Bail in the case was set at $2,500.

Falls Police Animal Control Officer Dave Bower said he was contacted on Sept. 25 by a 32-year-old woman who said her puppies had their ears cut and she didn't believe it had been done properly.

"The (practice of) ear cutting started with dog fighters," Bower said. "They would cut the ears because when dogs fight, they grab for their ears and try to tear them. That causes the dogs to bleed profusely."

Bower said he didn't suspect the owner of the puppies intended to use the dogs for fighting, rather that ear cutting had now become a popular "look" with pit bulls and pit bull mixes.

"People want their dogs to look tough," Bower said, "so they'll get the ears clipped. But there's no real reason to get the ears cut."

The owner of the puppies told Bower she gave Paonessa the puppies on Sept. 14 to have their ears "cut and cropped." She paid Paonessa received $250 to cut the ears of all seven puppies.

"If you take (dogs) to the vet, they'll (cut and clip their ears) under anesthesia and with proper surgical tools," Bower said. "Usually it's about $350 a dog."

Bower said the animals would also be properly "stitched and given pain medication" by a veterinarian. 

The puppies owner said Paonessa returned the dogs to her about 12 hours after he took them and she described the puppies ears as "a mess and not properly stitched up." The woman said Paonessa told her he "ran out of stitches."

Bower said the owner rushed one of the puppies to a local veterinary hospital for treatment. The animal control officer said the puppies are now recovering from their injuries and are being sold.

In his report on the incident, filed before Paonessa's arrest, Bower called his actions "depraved and sadistic."

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