A New Jersey couple surrendered Thursday morning to face animal cruelty charges in the abandonment of two dogs found dead from heat exposure in a crate near a Port Washington animal shelter, Nassau County prosecutors said Thursday.
The suspects were identified by prosecutors as the dogs’ owners, Steven Rivera, 28, and Diana Rodriguez, 33, both of Jersey City.
Rivera and Rodriguez were arraigned before District Court Judge Ignatius Muscarella on two counts each of abandonment of animals, two counts each of overdriving, torturing and injuring animals, and failure to provide sustenance.
Prosecutors said bail was set at a $250 bond or $125 cash for both defendants and they are due back in court on Monday. If convicted on all counts, they face up to 2 years in jail.
Authorities said the pit bulls — a gray and black male named King and a tan female named Becki, both about three years old and weighing between 60 and 70 pounds — were found July 31 on Davis Avenue, next to the North Shore Animal League.
According to a news release, the dogs were discovered dead about an hour after they were abandoned.
“These two helpless dogs were left to die a horrific death when they were left trapped in crates in sweltering conditions,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement.
Singas said that on July 31 Rivera and Rodriguez loaded the dogs into a crate and put them in a rented U-Haul truck. The dogs were dropped off shortly before 4 p.m. in the driveway of a propane business.
King and Becki were found dead in the crate by two employees of a nearby business about 5 p.m. after being left outside in 88-degree heat, Singas said. She added the dogs had no signs of external trauma.
The district attorney’s animal crimes unit and Port Washington police investigated the case.
Prosecutors declined to say how they connected the couple to the abandonment of the dogs.
Neither the defendants nor their attorney were available for comment.