The dogs found dead on the side of a Town of Lockport road last week may have been poisoned, according to an autopsy of one of the animals.
Although initial reports from the town animal control officer and the Niagara County Sheriff's Office said the dogs appeared to have been beaten and burned, the animal autopsy did not confirm that was the cause of death.
Timothy G. Brennan, executive director of the SPCA of Niagara, said Friday that an autopsy on one of the dogs, a wire-haired terrier, showed the injuries that the officers noted were only surface wounds that did not appear to be serious enough to have killed the dog.
The autopsy was conducted Thursday by Dr. Christopher Brown, an SPCA veterinarian.
"He found nothing to suggest they were beaten or burned," Brennan said. "It was some superficial singeing on their fur, but there was no tissue (damage). The muscle and bones were all intact and there was no evidence of bruising or being beaten. He's suspecting a toxin of some type."
Toxicology samples were collected and were sent to a laboratory for analysis, Brennan said.
Brown did not autopsy the second dog, which Brennan said was a Lhasa Apso, not a pug as previously reported. That was because its condition appeared to be the same as that of the terrier, Brennan said.
They were found Jan. 3 in garbage bags on the side of Wilson Road, just north of Rochester Road, which is part of Route 31. It's a sparsely populated area formerly called Sandpit Road, a name still used by some Lockport-area residents.
Both dogs appeared to be about two years old. They had no tags, microchips or other unusual markings, said Capt. Bruce Elliott, chief of the Sheriff's Office's Criminal Investigation Bureau.
"We don't have a lot to go on. We're dependent on people talking," Elliott said.
He said investigators believe the dogs lived in the Lockport area because of where they were found, but even that isn't certain.
Meanwhile, the Sheriff's Office announced Friday that "several concerned citizens" have offered a total of $6,250 in reward money to be paid to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer of the dogs.
The donations included $5,000 from a Seattle-area woman, $1,000 from Cuse Pit Crew Inc. of Syracuse and $250 from a Niagara County family.
Elliott said the Sheriff's Office plans to work with Crimestoppers of Erie County to create a fund for the reward money. The Sheriff's Office did not solicit donations for the reward and announced Friday it will not accept money directly.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Criminal Investigation Bureau at (716) 438-3327 and ask to speak with Elliott or Investigator Brian Bloom.