EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 26, 2013

Police arrest Lawrence dog walker for cruelty

Pit bull's owner tells police she had no idea about alleged mistreatment of dog

By Mark E. Vogler

---- — LAWRENCE — Officer Ivan Melendez said he was working a traffic detail shortly before noon last Tuesday when he saw a man swing a leash at a pit bull in the middle of Haverhill Street at the intersection of Union Street.

“I saw that the part of the leash this young man was swinging in order to strike the dog was the metal part that attaches to the collar of the dog,” Melendez wrote in arrest report later.

“The dog was cowering and appeared to be shaking out of control with fear. I saw the owner pull back the leash as to strike the dog and yelled out to stop. The owner who appeared enraged with the dog looked over to see me in my detail uniform and put down the leash,” the officer said.

But Angel Velazquez “went into a tirade in front of the construction crew” after the officer told him he could take away the dog for the way he was being treated. Velazquez replied “It’s my (expletive) dog, I’ll do whatever the (expletive) I want with him,” according to Melendez.

Melendez said he arrested Velazquez for mistreating the dog after he continued to shout obscenities at the officer and create a public disturbance. Officers Thomas Murphy and John Tully assisted. Melendez called Animal Control Officer Ellen Bistany to pick up the dog, according to Melendez’s report.

Velazquez, 21, of 286 Howard St., Lawrence, was charged with disorderly conduct and cruelty to animals.

Soon after police took custody of the 9-month-old blue nose pit bull named Domenick, they learned the dog’s rightful owner was Marsha Garfield, a neighbor who had paid Velazquez to walk her dog.

“It’s clear that the dog was properly cared for by the owner and we released it to her custody,” Lawrence Police Chief John Romero said.

“The owner was shocked by the charges and had no idea about the abuse. The dog is properly registered, has all the proper shots and is getting the best of care, as far as we’re concerned. Officer Bistany observed no signs of abuse,” the chief said.

If convicted of the animal cruelty charge, Velazquez faces punishment of up to 5 years in state prison or 21/2 years in the county jail, or a fine of up to $2,500 or a fine and imprisonment.

“(Velazquez) denied that he had hit the dog,” said Donna Sanchez, Garfield’s sister.

“He said he had raised the leash in his hand just to scare him and stop him from going into the street. But he went into the street. There are no signs whatsoever of abuse. We really don’t know if the dog was abused. She’s (Garfield) just thankful she got her dog back,” she said.

“It was a very stressful time for her. He’s a very lovable dog and she was going crazy worrying about him.”

Domenick remained in the custody police overnight while Velazquez sat in a jail cell. Garfield didn’t find out what happened until the next day.

Sanchez said her sister thinks Velazquez is a “good kid,” but won’t be walking the dog anymore.