A 27-year-old Burlingame man accused of fatally punching his girlfriend's 7-pound dog faces up to three years in state prison if convicted of the felony animal abuse charges filed against him, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said today.
Ryan Reeser is charged with two separate felony counts of animal cruelty and a misdemeanor count of destroying or hiding evidence, Wagstaffe said. Reeser faces up to three years in state prison if convicted.
Reeser's girlfriend often stayed at his house in Burlingame and went out the evening of Nov. 20, leaving her 6-year-old miniature pinscher Godiva with Reeser, Wagstaffe said.
Reeser became angry at the dog, landing multiple punches on the animal and dislodging the dog's eye from its socket, according to Wagstaffe.
Wagstaffe said Reeser later told investigators the dog "nipped" him. Reeser's girlfriends told investigators she and Reeser had not been fighting before the incident occurred.
Reeser allegedly told his girlfriend Godiva had gotten out and was nowhere to be found that night. His girlfriend's father came to the home the next morning and found Godiva dead in her plastic carrier about a block and a half from Reeser's house, Wagstaffe said.
"They quickly determined this (death) was not due to fight with another dog," Wagstaffe said. "(The) veterinarian said very clearly it was a dog who would not have died instantly and would have extensively suffered before dying."
The district attorney's office charged Reeser after obtaining necropsy results and conducting several interviews with him, according to Wagstaffe. The necropsy showed the dog suffered bruising in 13 different places and died of blood loss and injuries incurred from blunt trauma.
Charges were filed Thursday and a $200,000 warrant was issued for Reeser's arrest. Reeser was scheduled to turn himself in to the district attorney's office at some point today or Tuesday and will likely be in court this week, Wagstaffe said.
Reeser does not have a criminal record in the county, according to Wagstaffe.
Wagstaffe said the county has seen an increase in animal abuse cases in the past year.
Jesus Calderon-Franco, 33, was charged with stomping to death a kitten owned by his roommate's daughter. The kitten, named Pucci, died from multiple fractures to the body and was found in a trashcan near Calderon-Franco's home.
Calderon-Franco pleaded no contest Wednesday to charges of felony animal abuse and accepted a plea deal of up to 16 months in prison, according to Wagstaffe.
"It is inordinate the number of felony animal abuse cases we have seen here in the last few months," Wagstaffe said. "We have had several in the last year, and I hope it's a coincidence and not a trend."
Wagstaffe said the cases are specifically felony cases in which a person intentionally inflicts great pain and death on animals.
Peninsula Humane Society spokesman Scott Delucchi said the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office has taken a firm stance on animal abuse cases.
"We're really fortunate," Delucchi said, "Our district attorney's office does treat these cases very seriously and that's not always the case in other parts of the country. It's really rare for people to get a prison sentence for an animal abuse case."
The humane society is notified by individuals or law enforcement agencies of animal mistreatment and then investigates cases before sending a report to the district attorney's office, which decides which cases to prosecute.
Delucchi said most cases are solved by counseling pet owners on proper care of their animals. In the rare felony abuse cases, Delucchi said victims and their family members often have a hard time believing what has happened.
"We see a range of emotions," Delucchi said. "There is disbelief, anger and sadness."
Delucchi said people who strike out against animals often fall into one of three categories. Some people hurt animals because of anger and frustration if the animal misbehaves. Others mistreat animals to get back at a person. Delucchi said there are some cases of mean, sadistic people who enjoy feeling powerful over something that is powerless.