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SPCA: Reward increased to $2,000 in ritualistic animal killings after chicken heads found in Riverhead

Officials are increasing their efforts to stop a recent spike in ritualistic animal killings around Suffolk County after a bag of three chicken heads was discovered in Riverhead on Thursday night -- the third such discovery in nearly as many weeks.

The New York State Humane Society has issued a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone engaged in animal sacrifice, matching the $1,000 reward announced Thursday by the Suffolk County SPCA, the SPCA said in a news release Friday. Both organizations have also collaborated on a poster that will be posted around Long Island.

On Thursday about 9:30 p.m., Suffolk County police were called to the railroad tracks near Hubbard Avenue in Riverhead, where they found the heads of three chickens inside of two plastic grocery bags, according to the Chief Roy Gross, of the Suffolk County SPCA.

"This has been happening too often and is not the kind of thing we want our children to find," Gross said in a news release.

On June 24, the carcasses of three beheaded adult goats were found on the Otis Pike Preserve in Riverhead on Line Road near Pole No. 5. Their heads were found nearby, along with fruits and vegetables, according to Gross.

Less than a week later, the SPCA found a dead rooster nailed to a tree in Islip, at the intersection of Spur Drive South and Freeman Avenue. Police said the rooster's tongue and eyes were cut out and a candle was found nearby.

Gross said Friday he doesn't believe the same group is responsible for all three animal killings this summer, since they are "too widespread." But he said an expert working with the SPCA believes the killings are connected to ritualistic or religious practices.

Gross said ritualistic animal killings happen throughout the year, but they spike in the spring and summer in accordance with certain groups' ceremonies.

"We don't care what religion it is," he added. "Bottom line is there is no justification for killing an animal."

New York State law says animals must be killed humanely, and only for consumption.

The penalty for killing a noncompanion animal -- such as the farm animals found this summer -- is a misdemeanor resulting in $1,000 fine and 1 year in jail. The penalty for killing a companion animal -- such as a dog or a cat -- can result in a felony fine of $5,000 and 2 years in jail, according to Gross.

Fliers will be put around the Island, Gross said, reminding people that sacrificing animals is cruel and illegal.

"We're not in the Dark Ages," Gross said. "In a civilized society, this will not be tolerated."

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