A pit bull puppy is fighting for his life, its neck fractured, after being tied in a plastic bag and flung out of a car in Brentwood, authorities said Monday.
Joey, as the malnourished pup was named, is being treated with morphine, Valium and supportive care at the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island, where Islip Town officials took him after he was found Saturday near the closed Pilgrim Psychiatric Center.
"He was screaming to the point where we had to anesthetize him to get his pain under control," said Dr. Lynda Louden, chief of the emergency department at the West Islip practice, which specializes in critical cases.
The puppy was tossed out about 2 p.m., and another driver who saw the crime happen heard cries coming from the bag and called police, said town and veterinary officials.
"It was thrown out of a moving car, in a plastic trash bag," said Islip Town spokeswoman Venessa Rotondi.
Hitting the ground fractured three of the puppy's six neck vertebrae, said Louden, who picked the name.
Monday night at the center's emergency room, Joey lay on his side in an upper berth, thick red and white bandages around his neck and chest to help keep him immobile.
Only his eyes moved, flicking one way when a clip board fell, then the opposite way at the flash of a camera held by a detective with the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Joey is about 3 months old but weighed only 10 pounds, veterinarians said. A typical 3-month-old pit bull puppy would weigh at least 15 pounds. His spine and pelvis bones were sticking out and fleas swarmed on him, they said.
The veterinarian on Monday night duty, Dr. Danielle Wharton, said the puppy is quiet except when his food is taken away before he's full. "If you feed him too much, his red blood cells can rupture," said Wharton, who also took care of Joey when he came in.
When he arrived, his rapid heartbeat, pale gums and low blood pressure showed he was in "life-threatening shock," Louden said.
He still has trouble breathing because his lungs were bruised by the impact with the roadway, she said.
Also, he had bite wounds on the underside of his neck, an indication that he may have been used to train other pit bulls to fight, Louden said.
"I think he was probably used as bait," the veterinarian said, "or they were trying to start fighting him and he wasn't good enough and that's why they discarded him."
The puppy, in guarded condition, will be hospitalized for six to eight weeks. The center's specialists, including a neurologist, have decided that putting in a plate to help the bones heal is too risky and unlikely to help much.
There's a 50 percent chance his neck bones will heal on their own, Louden said.
Although the puppy squealed when his toes were pinched to see if his nerves were damaged, it's too early to tell whether Joey will ever be able to get up again.
At times, he's been propped up on his chest, towels supporting his chin, to avoid getting bed sores by lying constantly on his sides.
"The bad part is he's not using his front legs yet, and we don't know if he's going to regain full function of his front legs," Louden said.
The center's staff said Joey's a gentleman, letting them do whatever is needed without biting or fighting, as many dogs in pain do.
"He's a sweet boy," Wharton said. "He's very adoptable, once he gets through this."
If only his back legs recover, Joey may be outfitted with wheels by his front legs to help his mobility, Louden said.
But if none of his legs work, he may have to be euthanized, she said.
It's a fate that the veterinarians knew they may have to take when they accepted the wounded puppy. The center has a contract with Islip Town to treat or euthanize strays for $95 per patient.
"Most hospitals would just euthanize the puppy, but we wanted to give him a chance," Louden said. "He already met with humans that had no regard for his life, and we didn't want to be the second ones to do that."
Anyone who wants to donate to the cost of Joey's care can contact the center at vmcli.com or 631-587-0800.