SPCA: Charge filed against York man for taped dog-beating

Liz Evans Scolforo

A York County SPCA official on Wednesday filed an animal-cruelty charge against a York City man whose neighbor videotaped him repeatedly punching, hitting and whipping his pit bull, SPCA Executive Director Melissa Smith said.

Willa, the 8 to 10-week old pitbull puppy seen in a video, on facebook, of her father being beaten, is now being cared for by the York County SPCA in York, Pa. shown on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Dawn J. Sagert - The York Dispatch)
Willa, the 8 to 10-week old pitbull puppy seen in a video, on facebook, of her father being beaten, is now being cared for by the York County SPCA in York, Pa. shown on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Dawn J. Sagert - The York Dispatch)

Humane Police Officer Nicole Boyer filed a first-degree misdemeanor version of the charge in the office of District Judge Ron Haskell Jr., according to Smith, who said the offense is punishable by not less than a $1,000 fine, no more than two years in prison, or both. Often in Pennsylvania, the offense of cruelty to animals is graded as a summary offense, akin to a traffic ticket, but the charge can also be graded as a misdemeanor for maiming or torturing, officials said.

Luis Junior Cruz-Padro, 28, of 23 E. South St., was the man seen in a 2½-minute Facebook video beating Bugz, a 1½-year-old white pit bull now safe at the SPCA's Emigsville shelter, Smith said.

"We feel what happened to Bugz rises to the level of a misdemeanor and, quite frankly, the video speaks for itself," she said. "This was deliberate, repeated and prolonged physical abuse."

Bugz suffered a broken rib and bruising to his side from the Saturday beating, according to Smith.

Public responded: The graphic, difficult-to-watch video went viral on Monday, prompting dozens of people to alert the SPCA, she said. When Boyer got to the scene Monday, a mob of animal lovers had formed and a private animal rescue had already taken custody of Bugz from Cruz-Padro, Smith said.

That rescue turned over Bugz to Boyer, who was also able to take custody of an 8- to 10-week old white pit bull pup that lived in Cruz-Padro's home and was sired by Bugz, according to Smith.

Luis Cruz-Padro

Cruz-Padro had not bothered to name the puppy, so SPCA staff christened her Willa, Smith said.

'Amazing life' ahead: "She is unbelievably sweet" and has charmed the shelter staff, Smith said, adding the SPCA already has a number of "excellent" applicants lining up to adopt her.

"She'll probably be in her new home by the end of the week," Smith said. "She's going to have an amazing life."

Bugz will eventually be available for adoption.

"We want to put him in a foster home so we can assess his behavior and his likes and dislikes, to make sure we place him in a home where he can be the best he can be," Smith said. "He might even be in a foster home by the beginning of next week."

Smith said the SPCA received numerous calls from people wanting to adopt Bugz and Willa.

"I know that everyone's heart goes out to these two dogs, especially to Bugz because of what he went through, but we have a kennel full of dogs looking for homes," she said, so hopefully some of the people who called will adopt other dogs.

"Then everyone wins," Smith said.

Full recovery: Shelter medical staff sedated Bugz on Tuesday to more closely examine him, and determined he will make a full recovery, she said. Bugz was neutered while sedated.

"He doesn't seem to be in very much pain, but maybe we're not seeing it yet," she said. "Or maybe he's just not letting it show."

It's typical of pit bulls to be stoic about pain, she said — and also to be unfailingly loyal to their humans. Even to humans who abuse them, she said.

"If Bugz would see (his former owner) today, he would probably wag his tail," Smith said. "That's what we know and love about dogs in general and specifically about pit bulls and their loyalty."

Gentle touch: She said the SPCA staff feels very protective toward Bugz.

"We're being very gentle with him in every way, to make sure we don't accidentally do anything to scare him," she said. "The staff and volunteers all became instantly invested in him. ... A lot of our staff members couldn't watch the video because it was too disturbing for them."

Several well-wishers have made donations for his care, and a few others have called to say they'd like to donate, according to Smith, who said Bugz and Willa are safe "because someone cared enough to take footage of the beating and give it to us, so we can do the right thing."

Feel 'honored': On Tuesday, Boyer received more than 50 phone messages from people concerned about Bugz, according to Smith.

"We are honored to be able to care for him now and be the place where he can feel safe, and be the launching pad for his new life," she said.

Anyone with information about Cruz-Padro's whereabouts is asked to call the York County SPCA at (717) 764-6109 or the York County Detective Bureau at (717) 771-9600.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.