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Newfane man charged with cruelty to pit bulls

A Newfane man has been charged with nine counts of cruelty to animals for his role in a pit bull ring, possibly linked to dog fighting in Niagara Falls, following a joint investigation by the State Police and the Niagara County SPCA.

SPCA Cruelty Investigator David Battista and Trooper Brian Pazderski said nine pit bull terriers were found chained to trees in a wooded area in July at the home of Michael A. Paonessa, 35, on Coomer Road.

The dogs had no food or water, and some had wounds that appeared to be fighting-related, Pazderski said.

Paonessa was charged at that time by State Police with the cruelty counts, as well as nine counts of failure to provide food and drink to animals, all misdemeanors. He also was charged with nine counts of inappropriate shelter for dogs, a violation.

He was charged Tuesday with nine counts of failure to license and identify dogs.

Pazderski said there had been some information that Paonessa was selling the dogs for a dog-fighting ring and that is why authorities continued their investigation before announcing the charges Tuesday. He added that at this time there were no additional charges.

The trooper and SPCA investigator said they found the dogs in "deplorable conditions." The pit bulls were found chained to trees behind Paonessa's house, standing in mud, with no food, water or clean shelter, the investigators said.

Al Chille, county director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the dogs were put into the care of a veterinarian and are recovering.

Finding any kind of a dog-fighting ring is difficult, Chille said, because those involved tend to be "very secretive."

The last conviction for dog fighting in Niagara County was nearly 18 years ago, he said, adding that the SPCA has recently received reports of dog fighting.

"[Paonessa's] dogs were suspicious," Chille said. "It is hoped that when a breeder is selling dogs that he would breed and sell discriminately. If not, it is questionable."

Pazderski said authorities were able to make their arrest based on a tip to the SPCA.

Paonessa is to appear in Newfane Town Court on Tuesday.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com