The Suffolk County SPCA is investigating the beheading and dumping of three adult goats in a remote area in Riverhead, offering a $1,000 reward for information that results in an arrest and conviction, the nonprofit said in a statement on Thursday.
The "gruesome discovery" of the severely decomposed carcasses on the Otis Pike Preserve on Line Road near Pole No. 5 and of their heads nearby, along with some fruits and vegetables, was reported to the state Department of Environmental Conservation on Tuesday, SPCA Chief Roy Gross said.
The presence of the fruits and vegetables, combined with the beheadings, have prompted the SPCA to probe whether this was a ritualistic killing, Gross said by telephone.
"We will investigate this as a sacrificial killing and torturing of an animal for no justifiable purpose, and a religious belief is not a justification" under state law, he said.
The crime, a misdemeanor, is punishable by 1 year in prison and a $1,000 fine per animal, he said.
The killings could have taken place as long as a month ago, judging by the state of decomposition. The remains were sealed in black plastic bags.
However, the SPCA believes the goats were slain somewhere else and then taken to the area, which is not near houses and is not a heavily traveled roadway.
"Hopefully, one of your readers may have seen something, a car stopped on the side of the road," for example, Gross said.
Anyone with information about the crime can call the SPCA at 631-382-7722, and all calls are confidential.