Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Man charged in dog's abuse oversaw Islip 'sober home'

Emma the pit bull was rescued from a Central Islip home December 30. Emma's owner was arrested and charged with cruelty to animals for apparently abusing the 2-year-old dog. (Handout / Suffolk County Police Department / January 5, 2009)

The Central Islip man recently charged with torturing his pit bull was house manager in a 17-bedroom single family home being operated illegally as a rooming house, the Town of Islip said Monday.

Its residents and owners described the home, at 6 Bayonne Ave., as a "sober house," but if it was, it wasn't a successful one, Islip investigator Jason Mistretta said.

Bottles of vodka were visible in the rooms, he said. And the house manager, John Bayliss - who police say had thrown metal darts at his 2-year-old pit bull, Emma, and tied her mouth shut with speaker wire - kept beer in a refrigerator in his office, Mistretta said.

Islip Monday issued four summonses to the property owners, George Luksch and Anthony Avena, both of Wantagh, for illegally renting units in the single-family home, adding a second kitchen and converting a garage without a permit, Mistretta said. Seventeen people were renting rooms or beds there, he said.

The investigator also issued warnings to the owners for absence of smoke detectors and for unsafe wiring.

George Luksch, who owns a plumbing business in Wantagh, said the property had operated as a sober house - a residence for recovering addicts - even before he and Avena bought it three years ago, a use he said he believed was legal.

"I have the attorneys looking into that right now," he said, declining to comment further.

The state does not certify or oversee sober homes that provide only housing and no clinical services. Suffolk police investigating a domestic dispute Dec. 30 discovered evidence of animal abuse and illegal apartments in the home, police said.

Emma and Lexie, another pit bull owned by Bayliss but not abused, were taken for veterinary care and are now at the Islip Animal Shelter, where they are doing well, Islip spokeswoman Amy Basta said.

"They're eating and playing," she said. Because the investigation is ongoing, she said she doesn't know if the dogs will be put up for adoption.

Bayliss, 39, who faces charges of animal cruelty and third-degree menacing in an unrelated domestic dispute, remained at Suffolk County Jail in Riverhead Monday, on $5,000 bail or $15,000 bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday in First District Court in Central Islip, the Suffolk sheriff's office said.

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