The world's largest animal rights organization wants Erie County prosecutors to throw the book at a Cheektowaga woman accused of cooking rat poison into meatballs and feeding them to a neighbor's dog.
In a letter to the district attorney's office, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked prosecutors to seek the toughest punishment possible and a lifetime ban against the defendant, Charmaine Twarozek, from ever owning an animal.
Twarozek, 55, has not been convicted -- or even arraigned -- yet in connection with her Dec. 30 arrest for allegedly poisoning a neighbor's German shepherd. Arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 22 before Town Justice James M. Vallone.
"[We] implore your office to take every measure necessary to ensure that [she] is prohibited from owning animals, as is allowed by state law," PETA official Dan Paden said in a letter to prosecutors.
He also wants Twarozek ordered to receive mental-health counseling.
Cheektowaga officers charged Twarozek with cooking a batch of meatballs laced with rat poison and tossing them over a back fence to a yard where Roscoe, a young German shepherd, plays. Police said the dog ate part of one meatball but survived.
Police later found six other poisoned meatballs in the yard. Officers said they found the remnants of ground meat and rat poison on a frying pan in Twarozek's trash can.
District Attorney Frank J. Clark said he takes the case "very seriously" but will make his own decisions on how to proceed with the prosecution.
"My office generally has a pretty strict policy on animal abuse crimes. Unless there are some mitigating circumstances, we require people to plead guilty to the charge, or we take it to trial. We rarely offer plea deals on this kind of crime," Clark said.
He said he has another concern: "What if a 4-year-old child had picked up and eaten one of those meatballs?" he said.
Twarozek did not return calls seeking her side of the story Tuesday. She has not commentedince her arrest.
Roscoe's owner, Sue Anderson of Mayfair Court, said Roscoe was seen by a veterinarian Monday and seems to be on the road to recovery. Anderson said there is "no doubt" in her mind that Twarozek made the meatballs, because the incident followed months of complaints by Twarozek over the dog's alleged barking.
"One day in July, she used sticky labels to put 'Stop the barking' signs all over my front door," Anderson said. "I had to use a putty knife to scrape them off. She's called the police on me many times. The town dog warden came out and interviewed all the neighbors."
Dog warden Scott Thrun investigated Twarozek's complaints about the barking, but Twarozek decided not to file charges after other neighbors told Thrun the barking was not a problem, police Capt. John Glascott said.
Twarozek is charged with poisoning a dog and cruelty to animals, both misdemeanors.
Anderson said she and her husband, Michael, have received telephone calls and letters from people all over the United States since The Buffalo News first published the story Jan. 1. One woman even offered to travel from her Chicago home to take Roscoe for walks.
"We're responsible pet owners," Anderson said. "I'm not looking for any kind of revenge [against Twarozek]. We've spent more than $400 on bills at the vet since this happened. If she was ordered to pay our vet bills and leave us alone, that would be fine with me."