Hearing waived for animal cruelty suspect

Photo contributed by the Niagara Falls Police DepartmentDistrict Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek confirmed that Michael Anthony Paonessa of Niagara Falls waived his right to a preliminary hearing in city on Friday, "pending a potential presentation to a grand jury." Paonessa is facing multiple felony animal cruelty charges after police accused him of cutting the ears of seven American Bully puppies. 

A Falls man who is facing multiple felony animal cruelty charges after police accused him of cutting the ears of seven American Bully puppies in a "depraved and sadistic" manner may see his case presented to a Niagara County grand jury.

District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek confirmed that Michael Anthony Paonessa waived his right to a preliminary hearing in Falls City Court on Friday, "pending a potential presentation to a grand jury." Wojtaszek declined to comment further on the case.

Paonessa, 45, 1886 South Ave., is charged with seven counts of aggravated cruelty to animals and seven counts of clipping/cutting ears of dogs. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The Gazette has also learned that this is not Paonessa's first animal cruelty case.

In 2010, he was charged with aggravated animal abuse, a misdemeanor under the state Agriculture and Markets Law, for mistreating nine pit bulls. Animal cruelty investigators said they found eight dogs in his backyard, chained to trees and without food.

He pleaded guilty to the charge, but was sentenced to a conditional discharge in June 2010 by a Newfane Town Court justice.

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 said 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 told investigators that Paonessa "implied he had been a vet tech and could do the cutting properly." However, when he returned the dogs to her about 12 hours after he took them, she said the puppies ears were “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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