Puppy Doe’s Legacy: Tougher Animal Cruelty Laws in Massachusetts

puppy doe

UPDATE: In March 2018, Radoslaw Czerkawski was found guilty of all 12 charges of animal cruelty and sentenced to eight to 10 years in prison.

One of the most horrific and disturbing animal abuse cases I’ve ever written about was that of Kiya, a young Pit Bull better known as Puppy Doe.

Kiya’s original owners had given her away via a Craigslist ad when their landlord decided to ban Pit Bulls due to high insurance rates. She eventually ended up with Radoslaw Czerkawski, who starved her and inflicted what the Boston Herald called “medieval-style torture” on the helpless dog — he systematically pulled her limbs apart, split her tongue in half, stabbed her in the eye and burned her.

Czerkawski, a Polish national living in the U.S. on an expired work visa, was the live-in caretaker for an elderly woman with dementia in Quincy, Mass. When the woman died in late August 2013, Czerkawski dumped Kiya in a nearby wooded area. She was discovered there by someone who thought she’d been hit by a car — her injuries were that severe.

This was “unquestionably … hands down” the worst case of animal cruelty she’d ever witnessed, Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore, vice president of animal welfare at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, told the Boston Herald.

“When I saw how vulnerable she was and I understood immediately the duration of her suffering, my heart collapsed,” she said.

Kiya’s injuries were so extreme that she had to be euthanized. But first she was treated to a feast and lots of loving attention from Smith-Blackmore and her staff.

“Within hours of being found she had pain medication, food and love,” Smith-Blackmore told the Herald. “She experienced some tenderness and some care at the end of her life.”

Two months later, Czerkawski was arrested after Kiya’s blood splatter was found in the elderly woman’s home. His cell phone records indicated he had bought Kiya from her second owner via a Craigslist ad.

Czerkawski was charged with 12 counts of animal cruelty. He was also slapped with a larceny charge for stealing more than $100,000 from the elderly woman.

A trial date for the animal cruelty charges will be set Nov. 7, the Boston Herald reported today.

In the meantime, “Puppy Doe’s” tragic ordeal has led to legislation for tougher animal cruelty laws in Massachusetts.

Governor Deval Patrick is expected to sign a bill that will increase prison sentences and fines for animal abusers; require veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse to authorities; and create a task force that will review how the state handles animal abuse cases.

The maximum sentence for a first offense, which is currently five years, will increase to seven years. Subsequent offenses would have a maximum sentence of 10 years. The fines will be raised from $2,500 for a first offense to $5,000, and up to $10,000 for subsequent offenses.

“These are felonies, these are very serious crimes, and I think the penalties should reflect that,” Mary Nee, president of the Animal Rescue League of Boston, told the Boston Globe.

Until the bill was created, “animal rescue and welfare organizations were steadily working to chip away at animal cruelty in the state, largely unnoticed,” Rob Halpin, spokesman for MSPCA-Angell, told the Globe.

“It’s almost like we’re in this period in animal cruelty that’s ‘before Puppy Doe’ and ‘after Puppy Doe,’” he said. “Puppy Doe made a large and permanent crack in the status quo.”

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Laura Goldman

I am a freelance writer and lifelong dog lover. For five years, I was a staff writer for i Love Dogs. When that site shut down, I started this blog...because I STILL Love Dogs!