Kevin Barnett allegedly walked into the West Hempstead Animal Hospital on July 1 holding an allegedly filthy, rancid-smelling blanket. Inside that blanket was his dog named Jessica, dead.
The dog was “virtually skin and bones,” said District Attorney Anne Donnelly in a news release. The picture shows her ribs, hips and shoulder blades poking through with disturbing detail. Her nails were so overgrown that they curled over into the pads of her paws.
Barnett requested the West Hempstead Animal Hospital staff cremate Jessica. A necropsy performed on her shows that she had been ingesting non-food items shortly before her death, “indicating that she was starving and searching for food,” Donnelly said. According to documentation, Jessica had not seen a veterinarian since 2017. The necropsy determined she had been starved to death.
“This animal was severely neglected and clearly suffered,” Gary Rogers, president of the Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said in the release.
“It appears that my client has a long history of being a dog owner,” Jeffrey Groder, Barnett’s lawyer, said. “And all of these dogs were treated extremely well.”
Rogers told the Herald that, while all animal cruelty cases are upsetting, ones where the animal has already died are disturbing on a different level.
“It bothers [you], because how long was it like that?” Rogers said. “Did anybody see it like that?”
“An animal starving is just — imagine yourself starving to death,” he said.
Jessica’s malnutrition was so severe that her body scored the lowest possible score of 1 out of 9 on the Purina Body Condition scale. This scale is medically accepted among veterinarians to document muscle loss and assess the general health of an animal. According to prosecutors, Jessica had serious muscle fat atrophy, indicating emaciation, and non-food material in her stomach, indicating that she had been seeking food.
“Most of the time, it’s dogs that are near death or have passed,” Rogers, who has been with the SPCA for 40 years, said of the scale’s lowest possible score. “We don’t see this too often, but we see it often enough that it’s disturbing.”
Despite his alleged neglect of Jessica, Barnett attempted to adopt another dog just a few weeks before his arrest, Donnelly said. Barnett, 70, is charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, as well as failure to provide sustenance and overdriving, torturing and injuring animals. Barnett pleaded not guilty.
If convicted, Barnett faces up to four years in prison. He has been barred from possessing any animals. He is due back in court Nov. 27.
The county pays particular attention to animal abuse crimes due to their high correlation with other offenses, according to prosecutors.
“We know that people who abuse or neglect animals are more likely to commit domestic violence, crimes against children, crimes against elders,” the DA office said. “So we pay particular attention to these offenders because we’re aware of the social science that these are the people we need to pay attention to keep the community safe.”
Rogers urged the community to take action when they see an animal that is suffering. He said that an abused or neglected animal is like an abused or neglected child — except the animal has no cell phone, no school to go to, and no one to ask for help. People often don’t call the SPCA even when they know something is wrong, Rogers said.
“Most crimes don’t go unnoticed,” Rogers said. “We’d rather somebody call and it be nothing at all, than not call and it turns into a situation where an animal is suffering.
“If it was a child, you would call right away,” Rogers added.
Anyone who is concerned about the wellbeing of an animal should call the county SPCA at (516) 843-7722, or the county police at (516) 571-30