A $20,000 reward -- which could grow -- has been promised in the case of the pit bull puppy whose neck was fractured when someone stuffed him in a plastic bag and threw him out of a moving car in Brentwood Saturday.
The story of Joey -- found screaming in pain, malnourished and possibly used as dog-fighting bait -- has sparked so much outrage nationwide that the reward is now the second highest ever in the annals of the Suffolk County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The ASPCA will chip in $15,000, while the SPCA has upped its reward from $2,000 to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the crime. The ASPCA will also donate $10,000 to the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island, a West Islip practice that's taking care of the puppy and specializes in critical cases.
Confidential information on the case may be given to the SPCA at 631-382-7722.
"We were saddened to hear about this disturbing case of violent abuse, and the callousness that was demonstrated by those responsible," said Matt Bershadker, senior vice president of the ASPCA's anti-cruelty group. "While our ultimate hope is that these types of heinous acts never occur, we are pleased to be in a position to help those who are helping Joey."
Fans of the 3-month-old dog hope money talks. They want people to think of someone who may have had a light brown and white brindle pup like Joey and now doesn't. They believe the sizable reward will prod people to listen closely to anyone bragging over the reward on their heads or training dogs to fight.
"Somebody knows what they did," said Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk SPCA. "Somebody will go in a bar and talk. . . . This person has to be apprehended, taken off the streets and punished."
Gross pointed out that serial killers, child molesters and domestic violence aggressors often start their violent tendencies by torturing animals. It's a pattern that many prosecutors and judges around the country recognize, prompting them to push for tougher sentences for animal abusers.
"Maybe you don't care about an animal, but do you care about your fellow human being or a child?" Gross said. "Because people like that have no regard for anybody."
Joey was thrown out of a car shortly before 1:30 p.m. Saturday onto the entrance area of the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, said Joanne Daly, supervisor of Islip Town's animal shelter, which was called to the scene.
A person walking by saw a fast-moving car come off the Sagtikos Parkway exit to Pilgrim and throw out a black plastic bag, she said. The bag was closed, she said, and the pedestrian called authorities after hearing cries from the bag.
But the witness could not recall type or color of the car, Daly said.
Gross said he has contacted other agencies to raise more for the reward.
Joey has bite wounds on the underside of his neck. He weighed 10 pounds when he should have been at least 15 pounds, veterinarians said, and his bones, especially his pelvis, still stick out. He was in shock, they said, and he was thrown out so hard that the impact of hitting the ground bruised his lungs.
But his most severe injuries were neck fractures in three places. A CT scan Wednesday showed one fracture was worse than expected, said Dr. Lynda Louden, chief of emergency medicine at the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island.
It will take about a month for Joey's fractures to heal enough for him to get physical therapy on his legs to help him walk, she said.
For now, he must be still, his neck and front chest in a suit of bandages and propped up by a towel as he lies on his side or on his chest. Veterinarians hope time will knit his bones together.
It's not clear if the dog has suffered nerve and spinal damage and if the puppy will be able to walk properly again. People across the country have cried as they've called the SPCA and the veterinary center to donate to his care and reward.
Louden said the ASPCA grant can help pave the way for other abused animals to get care at the center because Joey's proved there's a way. Cards and prayers deck his upper berth in the emergency room, and he's expected to remain as a patient for two months, racking up $15,000 in expenses.
Louden said she and others at the center celebrated ASPCA's medical grant for Joey.
"It's such a relief," the veterinarian said. "Taking on such a big project like this is always nerve-wracking. . . . I put myself on the line for him and said, 'We'll get the money.' There's never going to be a question that he'll get every single thing he needs."