A Copiague man was convicted of animal cruelty Friday after authorities found two starving dogs that had eaten the seats of cars where they had been locked up, in a house with some of the most horrific conditions investigators said they had seen.
Anthony Laccone, 57, was convicted in a bench trial of four misdemeanor counts of overdriving, torturing, injuring and failing to provide proper sustenance to animals.
When Suffolk County SPCA and Babylon Town workers went to his home in November 2016 to investigate a tip, two dogs jumped out of the windows and ran off, authorities said.
After getting inside two days later, they found the home filled with trash and fecal matter, including on the walls, and they had to throw out piles of trash to get to the inside door of the garage, the SPCA had said.
Inside, two dogs were locked, with no food and water, in separate cars that had been gutted to the seat springs, the animal advocates said.
Two more dogs were found in the cluttered basement among trash and feces, and they have been adopted, authorities said.
The two dogs in the car were euthanized, prosecutors said.
None of the dogs, pit bull mixes which ranged from 8 months to 4 years old, had food or water, officials said. Each was malnourished, flea infested, had skin infections, were soaked with urine and had fecal matter embedded in their fur, prosecutors said.
Laccone faces a maximum sentence of 3 years of probation on each count, to run concurrently with mental health conditions, when he is sentenced July 25.
SPCA head Roy Gross said he wishes harsher penalties could have been leveled against Laccone.
He said he and other animal advocates have been lobbying state lawmakers to transfer animal cruelty charges from the agriculture department to the penal code, which would allow tougher sentences against abusers.
In his 36 years with the SPCA, Gross said, only two ever received sentences of 2 years. The others served less time, were fined or were ordered to do community service, he said.
Having animal cruelty charges in agriculture law is "antiquated," dating back to when such laws for the most part governed farm animals, Gross said. "The laws are not strong enough," he said. "It's very disturbing to do this on a daily basis. And it's very discouraging that after you do all of this, the only good out of it is that you're saving the animals and hopefully people will see this and make a call" when they see animal abuse.
Laccone will have to register within five days of his conviction with the Suffolk County Animal Abuse Registry. The name of his attorney was not immediately available Friday night.
“This individual, without care or concern, severely endangered the well-being of four defenseless animals,” District Attorney Timothy Sini said. “This level of cruelty is sickening and hateful and will not be tolerated by my office.”