A Stafford Township man has been sentenced to 90 days in county jail and five years probation for killing a veteran’s service dog, Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced Monday.
Joseph Russo, 25, of the Manahawkin section of the township, was sentenced Friday for the death of a 3-year-old Pomeranian named Diesel. The dog was a certified therapy dog to Navy veteran Abigail Russel.
On June 4, Russo pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges, including knowingly and unnecessarily beating and mutilating the companion dog, causing bodily injury and resulting in death.
According to reports, Russel was renting a room from Russo and had left the dog home alone for a few hours on May 25. Russo initially told her the dog died after suffering a seizure. Russel doubted the story and reported the dog’s death to Stafford Township police.
In 2013, the penalties for animal abuse were increased under “Patrick’s Law,” which focused on an emaciated pit bull that was thrown down a trash chute. In addition to his sentence, Russo must complete 30 hours of community service, complete an anger management course and is prohibited from owning or working with animals during his probation, according to the prosecutor’s office.