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Long Island Rabbit Cruelty Case

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    By Samuel Bruchey
    NEWSDAY STAFF WRITER

    February 13, 2003
    It was supposed to be a souvenir home video of a family celebration, titled "Our Vacation," filmed by the Loversos of Bay Shore when relatives were in town from Italy.

    But some of the images captured as the family prepared a meal - rabbits beaten, skinned alive, even attacked by a pet dog - led to the arrest of Matteo Loverso, 49, and his son, Rosario, 23, officials from the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said.

    "It was enough to turn the stomachs of some very seasoned detectives," said Roy Gross, chief of the SPCA. "These were some very graphic images." Police learned about the alleged abuse after receiving a copy of the videotape last month. Neither the father nor son, nor their relatives, could be reached to comment yesterday.

    Investigators believe the video was shot last month. It showed a large gathering of relatives laughing and enjoying themselves inside the Loverso home at 115 Connecticut Ave. as the rabbits were being prepared to be cooked, Gross said.

    One after another, live large brown rabbits were pulled from boxes by the father and son, Gross said. Some of the rabbits were held by their hind legs and given karate chops by the Loversos. "It was as if one was showing the other how to do it," Gross said.

    One rabbit, which presumably had been knocked unconscious, was held upside down and skinned. While it was skinned, the rabbit regained consciousness, Gross said. "Instead of killing it, they continued skinning it while the rabbit is screaming in pain," Gross said.

    Another rabbit was dropped on the floor by Rosario, Gross said, and allowed to be attacked by the family's miniature Doberman pinscher, "Cujo." According to Gross, "You could hear people saying 'Go ahead Cujo, go get it.'"

    When the rabbit was pulled away from the dog, it had bite marks on its neck, Gross said. It was then held up, while the dog repeatedly jumped to bite it.

    Matteo Loverso and Rosario Loverso each were charged with one count of cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail. The district attorney's office is reviewing the videotape. Additional charges are being considered, Gross said. "There's no law against raising animals and killing them for food," he said. "We are not looking to prosecute anyone for doing that. It was the way this was done. It wasn't humane."

    Copyright 2003, Newsday, Inc.
    Reprinted with permission, www.newsday.com

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