Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Owner of seized pit bull says he's a 'dog lover'

By Jill Harmacinski

LAWRENCE — An Abbott Street pit bull owner who had two dogs seized from his home, says he's an "animal lover" who has been wrongly targeted by police and animal control officers.

"These guys have been playing games around me for years," Lino Neves, 43, of 179 Abbott St., said in an interview yesterday. "The police are misinformed. I treat these dogs like they are my kids."

No charges were filed yesterday against Neves, a day after two dogs were removed from his home. An investigation into dogs' aggressive behavior continues, police said.

Neves owns one of the dogs seized, Ashley, a 6-year-old pit bull. The other dog taken Monday, Felony, a 9-year-old Boston terrier, belongs to Neves' roommate.

A third dog, a pit bull named Duchess, 4, was removed from the house because she was badly hurt in a vicious dogfight in Neves' backyard Sunday night.

In 2007, two other pit bulls, Sheba and Tobey, were taken from Neves after they attacked another dog. Those dogs are still in the custody of the city pound and face euthanization.

Sunday night, a police officer said he witnessed a vicious fight in Neves' backyard involving Ashley, Felony and Duchess. The officer said their behavior was so dangerous he called for back up and asked permission from a supervisor to shoot and kill the animals.

As backup arrived, Neves came out of the home and commanded the dogs to stop. They
obeyed him.

"They reacted right away," said Neves, who was shocked when police arrived at his house again on Monday to retrieve the dogs. He thought they were there to check on Duchess, who was treated by a veterinarian and heavily medicated after the fight.

He was unsure why the dogs were fighting, but suspects his dog lashed out at his roommate's dog. His roommate is hospitalized for drug rehabilitation.

Neves fiercely defended his treatment of the animals, which he said are clean and healthy. He denied accusations that he breeds or mistreats his dogs in any way.

"I am a dog lover and enthusiast," said Neves, who said he works privately as a personal assistant in Haverhill. "Anyone who knows me, knows I would never hurt an animal. ... I have never done anything to harm animals."

Having his pets taken away from him comes at a particularly bad time for Neves, who said he's lost six close relatives in recent years. He's also in the process of finding a new place to live because his home, which he rents, is now bank-owned after foreclosure.

Neves said there is a possibility Ashley could be returned to him, provided she is spayed through a program at the MSPCA shelter in Methuen.

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