Man Who Set Dog on Fire Prompts Long Island County to Crack Down on Animal Cruelty

A suburban county plans to devote more police attention to animal cruelty cases after a man was charged with tying his dog to a tree and setting the animal on fire.

Suffolk County's move marks a departure from the approach to such cases in many areas, where they are handled mostly by peace officers working for animal control agencies, said Dale Bartlett, deputy manager of animal cruelty issues for the Washington-based Humane Society of the United States.

A detective in each Suffolk County police precinct will be assigned to work with Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals peace officers, County Executive Steve Levy said Tuesday. The peace officers can conduct investigations, execute search warrants and issue summonses to make arrests, but they can't execute arrest warrants or perform certain other law enforcement tasks, said Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk SPCA.

The police detectives will add the animal cruelty cases to their regular responsibilities, Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said. Plans also call for establishing a permanent reward fund for information on animal neglect.

"From my perspective, it's not enough just to have punishment in this case," Levy said.

Derick Phanord, 22, of Brentwood was being held on $50,000 bail early Wednesday. He pleaded not guilty Tuesday to aggravated animal cruelty and criminal possession of a weapon — a bludgeon, according to police.

The dog, a pit bull, died last week after three surgeries. Authorities said he smelled of gasoline when he was found, severely injured, on July 12.

Police said Phanord told them the dog had been aggressive toward his family and another dog.

"I do know he has a strong family," said Phanord's attorney, Paul Barahal. "Obviously, they are very concerned about him."