The images of what happened to a pit bull nicknamed “Puppy Doe” shocked animal lovers and activists across the nation. But the public fury felt towards the man who abused the dog was reflected in the final outcome – the justice system meted out a harsh sentence of its own.
In August 2013, a poorly dog was found near a playground in Quincy, Massachusetts. The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARLB) determined that the pit bull mongrel was between one and two years old. Tipping the scales at 18.2 pounds, however, she was half the weight of a healthy canine of her age.
That wasn’t all that was wrong with the mistreated mutt, either. “Puppy Doe”, as she was dubbed, had suffered fractures to her skull, spine and ribs. Someone had stabbed her in the eye, and officials said the pup had also been burned on her nose.
The ARLB added, “She appears to have undergone some kind of crude cutting to create a serpent-like split to her tongue.” Experts decided that given the extent of her injuries, Puppy Doe was too hurt to save, and had to be put to sleep.
Back in 2013 the extent of Puppy Doe’s abuse led the Norfolk District Attorney, Michael Morrissey, to release an alarming statement about the perpetrator, whose identity was then unknown. “It is highly unlikely that this level of sadistic cruelty could be shown to one animal and not be part of a pattern involving other animals or perhaps vulnerable people,” Morrissey said.
It would take two months for authorities to home in on a suspect. Radoslaw Czerkawski lived near to where Puppy Doe had been abandoned. He had even spoken to investigators who had canvassed the neighborhood hunting for leads in the case.
Czerkawski worked as a residential carer for an elderly woman in Quincy, who passed away on August 31 – the same day Puppy Doe appeared at the playground. Although no foul play was suspected in the woman’s death, Czerkawski had caused her harm in another way.
While he lived with her, Czerkawski had stolen $130,000 from the elderly woman in his care. For that crime, he was sentenced to three to five years in prison in 2015. Soon, though, he’d face more charges when authorities were able to link him to Puppy Doe.
The Boston Globe newspaper reported that Czerkawski had purchased Puppy Doe for $40 from a couple, telling them that he had a farm of his own in Connecticut. He had allegedly showed up to pick up the dog in a luxury vehicle and had been well turned-out.
But there was more to link him to the dog found injured in the park. Boston.com’s report of the trial told how police used phone records to show that Czerkawski had inhabited the house with the elderly woman, although he had moved out by the time they were on his trail.
At Czerkawski’s trial, it was revealed that when they searched the home, police found evidence of animal abuse: spatter stains in the bathroom, scratches on a door frame and even a red paw print on a door. DNA samples matched those taken from Puppy Doe.
In addition to that, Czerkawski was claimed to have lied when police initially canvassed the area. So, not only did he have to answer 11 charges over animal cruelty, but also one pertaining to misleading a police investigation.
Czerkawski was facing many decades in prison for his alleged wrongdoings – each felony animal abuse charge then carried up to a five-year sentence. But newspaper The Patriot Ledger reported in March 2018 how the former carer’s defense lawyer had alleged that the dog had run away and another person and/or animals could have hurt Puppy Doe instead.
Apparently, the court didn’t believe the defense’s version of events because in March 2018 Czerkawski was found guilty of all abuse charges, although the Daily Mail newspaper reported he was cleared of lying to police. CBS Boston said the felon received an eight to ten-year jail sentence, and was barred from ever owning or caring for another animal.
As reported by the Masslive website, regarding the lengthy sentence, district attorney Morrissey said, “We felt that a substantial period of incarceration was warranted in light of the terrible nature of the abuse, the evidence that the abuse was ongoing for a significant period of time and the kind of injuries discovered… The evidence of injury in this case was shocking.”
The public felt that way, too. A Facebook page entitled “Justice for Puppy Doe” racked up more than 80,000 likes and 70,000 followers. Today, the site continues to lobby for the fair treatment of rescued and rehomed animals.
A documentary called Puppy Doe examined the young dog’s tragic death, but also took a critical look at U.S. animal abuse laws. In fact, the same scrutiny was applied in Massachusetts even while the pit bull’s story made headlines the world over.
According to the Boston Globe, at a September 2013 vigil held in Puppy Doe’s honor, state representative Bruce J. Ayers had said, “The current laws in Massachusetts are not tough enough to protect our animals.” Within a year, the state’s legislature had a bill ready for their governor to sign into law.
That bill would become the 2014 PAWS act, which toughened sentencing for animal abusers. It hiked the maximum amount of jail time for an animal cruelty felony from five to seven years. Repeat offenders might receive an additional 10-year penalty, and perhaps a $10,000 fine.
Because the bill had become law after Czerkawski’s arrest, he was sentenced according to the five-year-per-charge guidelines. Still, district attorney Morrissey was pleased with the police effort to apprehend their suspect. The DA commented, “Law enforcement at every level needs to treat animal cruelty cases as the serious crimes that they are.”