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Rabbit mutilated and left to die in bizarre West Side harassment case Level of cruelty draws felony charges

Two men trying to make a gruesome point cut the front paws off a white rabbit Thursday morning and left it to bleed to death on a woman's West Side doorstep, according to Buffalo police and officials from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Peter Colon, 40, and Luis Lopez, 31, both of Prospect Avenue were charged Friday with felony aggravated cruelty and harassment. They were being held in Erie County Holding Center without bail pending arraignment this morning in City Court.

Shortly after 8 a.m., the Seventh Street woman told police she saw two men come up to her home and leave the rabbit on her back steps. The rabbit was still alive but had no front paws and was bleeding profusely, according to police reports. It died a short time later.

The paws had been cut off with a snipping tool or a hatchet in an act that probably involved two people, said Barbara Carr, executive director of the Erie County SPCA.

"We're paying very, very close attention to this case," Carr said. "It's not just about a rabbit being tortured. This is an extreme act of violence."

Authorities say they believe family problems led to the episode. Police said they are looking into the possibility the incident might have been a ritualistic killing designed to cause misfortune to the recipient of the animal.

Browning said SPCA officials investigate a few incidents each year of animal cruelty involving domestic violence. "This is not uncommon for [an abuser] to take an animal and torture it and say 'If you don't do what I want, this is what I'll do to you,' " she said.

Still, SPCA officials don't see felony charges in an animal cruelty case very often. The aggravated cruelty charge is reserved for the most egregious cases.

"You have to prove there was intent and depraved indifference to the animal, and the animal has to be killed or seriously injured," Browning said. "It's meant for exactly this kind of violent act."

e-mail: tpignataro@buffnews.com

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