NORTH EAST — Cecil County Animal Services has filed animal cruelty charges against a man who allegedly dragged, hit and repeatedly kicked his pet puppy dog – causing extensive injuries – outside his apartment building near North East, ending an investigation that started in early March, according to Cecil County District Court records.
A CCAS agent took custody of the dog, described as a white and tan “terrier-type puppy” named Nugget, and then took the injured pet to Middletown (Del.) Veterinarian Clinic, where it received “emergency medical treatment” and was placed on observation at the outset, police said.
The veterinarian’s examination revealed “fecal matter floating throughout her (Nugget’s) body, multiple broken ribs and gas buildup floating throughout her body from a punctured lung,” as well as possible “liver or kidney failure,” police added.
The veterinarian, Dr. Amber Galloway, also reported that wounds to Nugget’s paw pads were “most likely due to being dragged across a hard surface” and that she also observed “other markings throughout Nugget’s body that looked to be bruises forming,” police reported.
“Dr. Galloway wanted to keep Nugget for observation for the night, as there was a guarded concern that Nugget might not live until the next day, unless under observation,” according to charging documents.
Nugget survived and was placed in the care of the Brandywine SPCA, where she remained for approximately seven days before the dog was adopted by the suspect’s family, court records show.
“During Nugget’s stay at Brandywine SPCA, Nugget was a very outgoing, happy puppy with no medical issues,” according to court records.
Brittany Lambert, the lead CCAS investigator, filed a criminal summons against suspect – Eric Christopher Andrews, 31, of the 100 block of West Clairborne Road near North East – and it was issued to him on Wednesday, court records show.
Scheduled for an Aug. 31 preliminary hearing, Andrews is charged with aggravated animal cruelty, a felony that is punishable by up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine, and a misdemeanor count of animal cruelty (failure to provide veterinary care), which carries a maximum 90-day sentence and a $1,000 fine, court records show.
The investigation begins
The investigation started on March 4, when Lambert responded to Andrews’ apartment complex after receiving a complaint from the Charlestown Crossing Apartments Management Team, which contacted authorities because a tenant reported that she had witnessed a neighbor, later identified as Andrews, physically abuse his dog in a grassy area outside his apartment building at approximately 11 p.m. on March 3, police reported.
Lambert interviewed the eyewitness, who, according to charging documents, reported that she saw Andrews carry his dog downstairs from his second-floor apartment and that it appeared blood from the dog was dripping down onto the ground.
“Mr. Andrews then put the dog down near the grass and yelled out, “Can you take a (expletive) already.” (She) then saw Mr. Andrews smack the dog on the side towards the back area, and afterwards started to drag the dog, which caused the dog to start yelping. (She) saw that this made the dog vomit multiple times. (She) advised that she has also witnessed Mr. Andrews beat his dog with a dark-colored leash very hard, which caused the dog to cry out,” court records allege.
In addition, the neighbor told investigators that she saw Andrews kick the dog.
“She saw Mr. Andrews kick Nugget in her stomach and described it as almost as if he was punting a ball, soccer or football. This kick caused the dog to start yelping,” court records allege.
The neighbor also saw Andrews walk the dog around the apartment building and then drag Nugget upstairs, according to charging documents.
After receiving the tenant’s complaint, the apartment complex’ maintenance team observed “multiple blood trails” leading to the door of Andrews’ apartment, police reported.
Andrews denies allegations
Lambert went to that apartment and spoke with Andrews, who denied kicking and dragging Nugget, police said. Andrews maintained that he was attempting to “push Nugget along” because the dog would not walk alongside him and that he may have “slightly” dragged her, police added.
The investigator noticed a dark red blood trail leading from the front door of Andrews’ apartment to the patio door, which Andrews attributed to Nugget’s sensitive paws, according to court records.
Because she noticed that Nugget had numerous visible injuries and that she was in overall poor physical condition — including exhibiting difficulty while standing up from a lying position, whimpering when doing so and trouble walking — Lambert seized the pet, police said.
After taking custody of Nugget, the investigator transported her to the veterinarian clinic in Middletown for emergency treatment, according to court records, which further indicate that Andrews reported that he and his wife lacked the funds to pay a veterinarian.
‘Things got out of control’
On March 5, when Lambert and CCAS Officer Daniel Dominick Puhalski conducted a follow-up interview, Andrews made an admission after initially downplaying the incident that had been witnessed by the neighbor, police said. He did so after the investigators informed him of the severity of Nugget’s injuries, as documented by veterinarians at the veterinary clinic in Middletown, police added.
“Mr. Andrews had a visible change in attitude and began trembling . . . Mr. Andrews appeared as if he was going to cry and told us that on March 3 Nugget allegedly bit him, creating a wound on his right hand. After being bitten, Mr. Andrews brought Nugget outside and down the stairs of his apartment building, where ‘things got out of control, especially after she bit me’,” court records allege.
Lambert’s written statement of probable cause further alleges, “Mr. Andrews told us that he did kick Nugget multiple times and that the situation got out of control. Mr. Andrews advised that he did not think he had kicked Nugget that hard, but he told us that he thinks there is no other way to explain what could have happened to Nugget to get in the condition Nugget is currently in. Mr. Andrews advised to Officer Puhalski and I that he has owned up to what he had done, and Mr. Andrews advised again that he didn’t think he kicked her that hard and seemed concerned over his actions. Mr. Andrews advised that he is willing to get help for his anger issues.”
Suspect’s wife interviewed
Lambert also twice interviewed Andrews’ wife, who indicated that “she did not want to get Mr. Andrews in trouble, but would not be surprised if Mr. Andrews had kicked and dragged Nugget as described in the complaint, as Mr. Andrews is currently seeking behavioral help for his anger issues,” according to charging documents.
She also reported that one of her cats named Hay Hay “suddenly died from unknown causes” on Jan. 4 and, around that same time, another cat she had owned for several years went missing, police reported. (Andrews moved into that apartment with his wife in late November, after his release from probation in a Delaware auto theft case, investigators note in court records.)
In addition, according to charging documents, his wife told the investigator that Andrews had been “acting weird recently” and had been “acting nervous as if he is hiding something.”
“Mrs. Andrews continued to advise that she had suspected Mr. Andrews had part of each animal-related incident,” according to court records, which further allege, “When she asked her husband further what had happened to her cat named Hay Hay, Mr. Andrews became upset, shaking and quiet and would not answer her questions. She believed that his inability to the question means that Mr. Andrews had done something abusive or negligent to their prior family cat.”
Referencing events that occurred shortly before the CCAS was contacted by the apartment complex management, after receiving the animal cruelty complaint from the neighbor, Andrews’ wife told the investigator that she heard “strange noises” in the living room at approximately 2 a.m. on March 4 while she was asleep on the couch, court records show.
“She thought that she heard Nugget being smacked, along with Nugget making whining noises, which she described as sounding as if Nugget was being hurt. When she woke up and asked Mr. Andrews what the smacking sound was from, her husband stated that he did not know and seemed extremely nervous,” court records allege.
Andrews’ wife offered a theory to the investigator.
“She believes that Mr. Andrews had been committing these acts of cruelty due to their relationship being on bad terms recently, as they have been arguing with each other often, and she thinks that Mr. Andrews is taking his anger out on their animals,” Lambert reports in her written statement of probable cause.
Andrews’ wife also told Lambert that she was aware that Nugget “was not acting normal and seemed hurt” and that she “started looking for a veterinarian and was hoping to take Nugget to a veterinarian (that) weekend when she had more funds,” court records show.