'Miracle' dog lives, Islip animal shelter worker accused of cruelty

Michael Papini, 30, of Lindenhurst, who works as

Michael Papini, 30, of Lindenhurst, who works as a kennel attendant, was arrested at his home on felony aggravated animal cruelty, misdemeanor animal abandonment and related charges, the SPCA said. (Dec. 27, 2013) (Credit: Suffolk County SPCA)

An Islip Town animal shelter employee will be arraigned Saturday on animal cruelty charges for leaving a live dog in a gas station Dumpster, the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said.

Kennel attendant Michael Papini, 30, of Lindenhurst, was arrested Friday at his home at 15 Green Ave. on felony aggravated animal cruelty, misdemeanor animal abandonment and related charges, the SPCA said.

The severely matted dog, a Lhasa apso, survived.

Papini was identified after news outlets aired surveillance footage showing a sport utility vehicle driver dumping a black plastic bag at a USA gas station in West Islip at 7:42 a.m. Monday, SPCA Chief Roy Gross said.

"People who saw it recognized him, recognized the vehicle, his walk," he said. "I find it very disturbing that somebody would do that, and somebody working in an animal shelter makes it that much more disturbing."

Islip Town officials have been cooperating with the investigation, Gross said.

Whether Papini crossed paths with the dog after it was seen by a veterinarian and transferred to the shelter Thursday was unclear, Gross said.

Another break in the case came when shelter workers found a microchip in the female dog, who is about 11/2 years old, and contacted her owner, Gross said.

The woman told SPCA detectives she knew Papini, Gross said, and when she couldn't care for her pet, he offered to take the dog to the shelter.

She paid him money, the SPCA chief said, but it's a mystery why he didn't keep his end of the deal.

"A dog like that is so easily adoptable," Gross said. "How could he do that? . . . This is like a planned act of animal cruelty."

Gross said the woman was upset after seeing the video and declined to release more details about the deal and other charges until the arraignment.

A homeless man rummaging through trash Tuesday morning spotted the animal, authorities said. She had been in a tied-up plastic bag, inside a cardboard carrier with ventilation holes, but she escaped and appeared to have chewed her way out of the bag, Gross said.

The man contacted authorities and police quickly notified the SPCA at 2:10 a.m. Tuesday, more than 18 hours after the dog was dumped, authorities said.

The dog, who's friendly and in good health, can be seen by the public Saturday for the first time since her ordeal, at the town shelter in Bay Shore, Gross said. About 25 people have already signed up to adopt her, he said.

Gross hopes the dog saved Christmas Eve can be named Noel: "For somebody to take a live animal, put it in a box and black plastic bag, for somebody to find it -- it's a million-to-one shot. It's a miracle for that dog to survive."

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