UPDATED: NY Shelter Worker Charged with Felony Cruelty

Noelle, as depicted on the NBC4 NY website.
Noelle, as depicted on the NBC4 NY website.

A homeless man searching a Long Island gas station dumpster for food on Christmas Eve found a tiny dog.  She had been placed in the dumpster in a tied trash bag but apparently was able to chew her way out.  He immediately called police to get the dog some help.  NBC4 NY identified the man as Kevin Zabawski and spoke with him about the incident:

“I just happened to look to the side and there was a face looking at me. There was this dog in there, and I thought ‘Who the heck would leave an animal like that in the Dumpster?’ It’s way too much for me.”

The answer to Mr. Zabawski’s question turns out to be:  a public animal shelter employee.  Michael Papini, a kennel attendant at the Town of Islip Animal Shelter, was seen on surveillance video dumping the dog into the trash bin.  Members of the public later identified him after local TV news outlets aired the footage.

After being saved from the dumpster, the little dog was taken to a vet and then to the Town of Islip Animal Shelter.  Investigators did not know at the time that one of the shelter’s employees was the person they were seeking in connection with the case.  When it was determined the dog had a microchip, Suffolk Co SPCA investigators paid a visit to the registered owner.  She explained that she knew Michael Papini and that he had offered to take the dog to the shelter since she was no longer able to take care of the pet.  The owner paid Papini for his service.  He then allegedly tied the dog up in a plastic garbage bag and dropped her in the dumpster at the gas station.  Investigators report the former owner was very upset after learning what Papini had done with her dog.

“A dog like that is so easily adoptable,” [Suffolk Co SPCA chief Roy] Gross said. “How could he do that? . . . This is like a planned act of animal cruelty.”

Papini was charged with felony aggravated animal cruelty, misdemeanor animal abandonment and other charges and is scheduled to be arraigned today.

The one year old dog, now being called Noelle, is friendly and in good health, despite being left for dead in the dumpster for 18 hours.  Dozens of people have applied to adopt her from the shelter where she is receiving care.  Noelle is alive today thanks to the kindness of  Kevin Zabawski.  I hope he too has something to eat and a warm place to sleep tonight.

Thank you once again to the so-called irresponsible public for saving animals from those paid to protect them.

(Thank you Clarice for the links.)

Update, added December 29, 2013:  The shelter employee was allegedly paid $250 (CBS NY reports it was $500) by a woman he knew to take her two dogs to the shelter.  Those dogs were Cherry, whom he tied in a trash bag and tossed in a dumpster, and Bailey, who is currently missing.  Bailey is described as a cream colored, male, miniature poodle.  Authorities say Michael Papini allegedly turned Bailey loose from a parked vehicle on Cooper Street in Babylon Village about 7 a.m. on Dec. 23.  The Suffolk Co SPCA is offering a $500 reward for information leading to Bailey’s recovery.

If you live on Long Island, please keep an eye out for Bailey.  There are no publicly available photos of him as far as I know but he may look something like the dog pictured on this page, although he is possibly dirty and matted, like Cherry.

Papini posted $500 bond and is free, pending trial.  I see that extra cash came in useful for him.

27 thoughts on “UPDATED: NY Shelter Worker Charged with Felony Cruelty

  1. Kill shelters make monsters. Kill shelters attract monsters.

    Making a No Kill nation is not only vital for animals, it’s vital for people.

    1. I am a retired vet tech who was a open admission shelter kennel manager for three years. I deeply resent your generalization. MOST of us charged with taking on what isn’t in demand and easily placed are NOT the ‘monsters’. People who take on a life and callously dump it when it’s not as easy as they want it to be are the monsters. Some responsible, caring pet owners DO run into legitimate hard situations where they can’t humanely care for their pets, but most who leave pets at shelters get them with NO planning on how they intend to provide for and raise these animals. Those are your ‘monsters’. This jerk took on a dog with no intention of behaving responsibly. Yes, he IS a monster. Monsters come in ALL occupations. To paint ALL of us with your heartless brush is WRONG. You owe those of us who hold tired, unwanted paws with tears in our eyes as we are forced to let them go so the next wave has someplace to go for a last chance an apology. MOST of us DO care, and we do all that CAN be done, while working as hard as possible to put ourselves out of business, unlike so many ‘no kill’ shelters that IMPORT dogs to sell at a rate of over 300,000 a year from other countries.

      1. “You owe those of us who hold tired, unwanted paws with tears in our eyes as we are forced to let them go so the next wave has someplace to go for a last chance an apology.”

        I’m sure you’re not a monster. But monsters do happen in kill shelters – and kill shelters encourage them. Have you asked what happens to the people who don’t become monsters? Compassion fatigue is real and it needs to be dealt with.

        And…have you ever wondered if there’s another way? If all the killing is maybe unnecessary?

      2. What, huh? I believe Mikken is referring to this post which looks at high kill shelters and slaughterhouses – http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=12352 . I think the number of stories of shelter workers who abuse animals can make a strong case for a lack of accountability for sheltering. We don’t see this many stories of people who are tasked with providing support for their clientele abusing them – police, hospitals, orphanages, schools. Shelters should be held accountable to provide the same standards of care that ordinary citizens are required. It is clear from the lack of consequences that it is not. I’m not even arguing from a Live Release Rate perspective but from – don’t leave animals living in filth, starving for days, suffering with no medical care, allowing employees to torture animals without repercussions (such as Memphis Animal Control).

        Yes, there are plenty of irresponsible owners out there. I read somewhere the statistic is 16% of animals don’t stay with their owner until death. That is a lot of irresponsible owners. They, too, should be prosecuted if they dump an animal on the side of the road or throw it away in a garbage can. I find it disturbing that he is suspended without pay. I know for fact that my private employer would call what he did fraud and stealing and fire his butt ASAP, without the added element that we are talking about a live animal and that he works in animal sheltering.

        There may be some No Kill shelters importing dogs from other countries, but I have a hard time believing that there are so “many” of them. Furthermore, that is completely irrelevant to the issue of shelter workers abusing animals.

        You can control what you can control. You can choose to implement life-saving programs. You can rally for legislation like retail pet sale bans – http://bestfriends.org/Resources/No-Kill-Resources/Puppy-mill-initiatives/Fighting-Puppy-Mills/Jurisdictions-with-retail-pet-sale-bans/ . You can get start a program for low cost and free spay/neuter. In Austin, we have “free spay days” and it is packed with many low income owners who want to do the right thing. You are not going to be able suddenly change the segment of the population that is going to do what they are going to do. If anything this many years of the “spay/neuter” mantra has taught us, it should be that. Spaying and neutering has not ended shelter killing yet and blaming irresponsible pet owners doesn’t seem to be doing any good either.

        I work in sales and the top sales people are usually some of the hardest workers. The bottom sales peoples usually have a bunch of excuses and blaming. Yes, sometimes, it is the economy, but most of the time, what the top people are doing is vastly different from what the bottom people are doing. I suspect that it is similar in animal sheltering. I know in Austin both the animal control people and the rescue people work hard, so hard to get animals out alive. You can see from their posts about with a pet’s background on how irresponsible some of the population is, but most likely someone else will be stepping up for that same pet, due to their efforts. .

        I really need to stop reading Yes Biscuit. I spend too much time here. I always go to outthefrontdoor.com for the good news then come here to see just how much still needs to change.

      3. You “think”. You “believe”. You “suspect”. But YOU DON’T KNOW!!! YOU have not been there. YOU have NOT done that. I have never met shelter workers who have abused animals. I have never met shelter workers who don’t do all they can to get animals placed in good, safe homes to avoid putting them down. I have met one who slacked off on his duties. He lasted three weeks. He was fired for not cleaning up kennels when they were dirty. Do a few nut cases manage to get jobs they shouldn’t have? Well yeah, but that happens in ALL work environments. You have priests violating children. You have nurses killing patients. You have cops taking bribes and letting criminals go. You have teachers molesting children. But are there MANY of them? Are MOST priests, nurses, cops and teachers monsters? NO.

        This bass turd should be in jail. He should be shot, but society won’t allow that. So he IS where he needs to be. No shelter worker would support what he’s done.

        You don’t “believe” there are so many groups importing animals to sell? Tell the CDC they are liars then. And this was in 2007. It has skyrocketed since then. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=3765973

        “Spaying and neutering has not reduced the problem” you say? Surprise!! Because that is NOT the ‘problem”. The problem is people who get the wrong pet for their household, or ANY pet when they’ve not carefully considered the future needs of the animal, like training, vet care, housing, and feeding costs. They get a dog when they don’t know where they’re going to be living in two months because the land lord has their rented home for sale. The new landlord says, “No pets”. Dog gets dumped. They get a big, bold breed when they don’t have the skill to teach such a dog manners. The dog jumps on them, pulls them around, and isn’t house trained, so they dump it. They’re between jobs, and have lots of time for the free puppy they got from the neighbor. But the puppy gets sick, and they can’t afford to treat it, so they have to dump it. Or they find a job, and don’t have time for it anymore. And yes, it is true. The person dumping their pet because they got new furniture and the animal’s hair shows up too much on the new furniture, so they dump it. It HAS happened to me.

        You quote Nathan Winograd. Then you MUST know he also says pet overpopulation is a MYTH. So spay/neuter isn’t the cure all. And bashing the people who are busting their asses so dogs that don’t fit into the sales plan of your ‘no kill’ shelters isn’t the answer either. Getting your armchair quarterbacking butt out there and actually working to educate people about properly obtaining and keeping a pet is a start. Fostering shelter pets, or training them for new homes is a start. But sitting here bashing what you don’t KNOW and haven’t LIVED for nearly thirty years is just plain ignorance at its best. When YOU have spent thirty years doing the job, let me know.

      4. And there are some great shelters workers, too. Locally, we know those go above and beyond and are grateful that they are willing to do what they can to give animals a second chance.

      5. And just to add to what Victoria said…

        Those who “are forced to let them go so the next wave has someplace to go for a last chance” – doing that, day after day after day…do you think that’s *good* for you? It takes a toll, right? An emotional, psychological toll.

        And that’s my point. Kill shelters are *bad for people*. Some people become monsters, some become bitter and angry, some become just…empty. But however it affects people, it’s *not good*. And it needs to change. Shelter reform is needed *for people*. Yes, it’s good for the animals too, but if you care about people at all, you’ll fight for shelter reform.

      6. Every time I hear or read about shelter workers who say that hope to be ‘put out of business’ I know that they don’t really grasp what a SHELTER is supposed to be. A place that provides real SHELTER should never be put out of business – unless actual magic fairies swoop in to run everything and make sure bad things never happen (oh, but that’s just me being goofy). Places that provide shelter will always be necessary. It’s just that they need to actually provide shelter and help their clientele, which is NOT what a lot of places that call themselves ‘shelters’ do. If a battered women’s shelter go women in the door and then didn’t provide a clean, warm bed, and/or substandard or no food and water, wouldn’t let most of the women leave, and then quietly killed them, the people who ran the place would be monsters. I realize that most people find this kind of comparison beyond offensive, but really, what if offensive is the refusal to understand that the situations and outcomes at places that call themselves animal SHELTERS, yet kill friendly, healthy animals every day make them not SHELTERS, but SLAUGHTERHOUSES.

    2. “I have never met shelter workers who have abused animals.”

      There are those who believe that killing a healthy, adoptable animal for “space” or “time” is a form of abuse.

      And the situation you describe (workers doing their best to get animals placed before they “must” kill them) is typical of the old shelter models. This is something that I’ve been working on with my local shelters – the fact that they don’t ENGAGE the public nearly enough. Yes, they have their volunteers, they have their bubble of supporters, but how much are they actually interacting with the community at large? How much are they reaching out with programs, education, and marketing (not only the animals, but the shelter itself)? Because no shelter can do it alone – that’s why there are no kill COMMUNITIES. It takes the community to make it happen. Otherwise, all you’ve got is an exercise in “save a few, kill the rest” and mounting frustration.

      1. Scottee’s post is exactly what first popped into my head. It means that this man’s actions are right in line with PETA’s, and in fact PETA would fully and wholly support him if he’d just killed the dog before he dumped it in the trash. Which we know because PETA fully and wholly supported its own employees who were caught doing just that…killing cats and dogs in a van and dumping their corpses in the garbage.

  2. Authorities said Papini, who worked as a janitor at the shelter, was paid $250 by an acquaintance to take her two dogs off her hands because she could no longer take care of them.
    Instead of bringing the pooches to the kennel as promised, police say Papini let one dog, a poodle, out into the street, Newsday reported. The animal has not been seen since.


  3. I read the thread – and as I was goign to post – this is not Papini’s first act of cruelty. And there are most likely dozens or hundreds more that have died and suffered by his hands. He is a sociopath. He can’t be rehabilitated…this is who he is. I’m glad he was charged… but let’s see what the sentence is…

    1. That was my thought too Karen. I would be shocked if this man’s first act of cruelty was to tie a dog up in plastic and put her in the trash bin. I suspect he fits the profile of animal abusers who seek to place themselves in positions where they have easy access to victims. The notion that no one at the shelter had any clue they were working side by side with an animal abuser seems unbelievable to me.

      1. Oh, I’m sure that at least one, and likely more than one, had some clue that Michael Papini was someone they didn’t want to be in a room alone with, at the very least, and yet they either didn’t think they should, or more likely could, say anything that would get him removed from his job. That’s another aspect of kill shelters being bad places for good people to work at – they realize that they are working with people that make their alarm sensors go off and this puts them in a state of stress that isn’t healthy.

  4. Those who work in shelters and kill animals for a living and blame everyone else are not people we owe an apology to. There are 6 to 7 homes looking for a pet for every one that is killed in a ‘shelter’. When you kill them, all you’ve done is decline to make the effort to find them a home and that is not an act of kindness.

  5. I hope the elderly lady sues his pants off in Civil court. And I hope he is locked away for a long time. But it appears the NY courts prefer to coddle their psychopaths as the $500 bail shows. There is something missing and terribly wrong in The NY judiciary system. As was proven by the guy who was on tape in the elevator who brutally beat an 8 mo old St. Bernard puppy and admitted to it had all charges dismissed because he was some muckety muck.
    NY you truly are a disappointment to society.

    1. OMG this gets worse as I road down the page, they shoudl have powers to lock them away, if they do this to a dog they will do it to a child

  6. I hate to say it but many dogs are abused at the shelters .. a dog was just strangled by a shelter worker in nyc .. I sign petitions all the time about shelter workers abusing animals .. please do not put blinders on it is a reality … glad this pos was caught and I hope he pays dearly for what he has done

    1. Well I hope he was locked up, it is animal cruelty and surely that hold a prison sentence, I know it does in UK

  7. I received word that the DA’s office has been besieged with calls over this incident. This is the contact information for anyone that wishes to add their call to the list:

    Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office

    Thomas J. Spota, Suffolk County District Attorney

    Executive Offices (631) 853 – 4161
    Administration (631) 852 – 2608

    E-mail : infoda@suffolkcountyny.gov


  9. Oh dear god, that sick excuse for a human being should be flogged, and never ever allowed to own or work with animals again

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