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Ocean County Man Gets 90 Day Jail Term For Killing Navy Vet’s Therapy Dog

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Joseph Russo (Photo: Ocean County Jail)
Joseph Russo (Photo: Ocean County Jail)

A 25-year-old Ocean County man will spend the next three months in jail for killing his former friend’s therapy dog, the county prosecutor’s office announced Monday.

Joseph Russo, of Manahawkin, was sentenced to a 90 day jail term on Friday for the killing of “Diesel,” a three year old Pomeranian who was in training to be a certified service/therapy dog for his owner, Abigail Russel, who is a United States Navy veteran.

Diesel, a therapy dog killed by a Manahawkin man. (Photo: OCPO)
Diesel, a therapy dog killed by a Manahawkin man. (Photo: OCPO)

Russo pleaded guilty in June to an indictment charging him with animal cruelty. The incident occurred May 30, 2016. At the time, prosecutors said Diesel’s owner alleged that the small dog was left in a room she had rented at the home of Russo five days earlier. When the owner returned a few hours later, Russo told her that Diesel had a seizure and died. Over the next few days, not believing Russo’s story, Diesel’s owner contacted the Stafford Township Police Department.

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Russo reportedly killed the dog by flexing its head and spinal cord. He admitted guilt to a statute that forbids one to “knowingly, or reckless torment, torture, maim, unnecessarily or cruelly beat, cruelly abuse or needlessly mutilate a companion dog.”

As additional conditions of the sentence, Russo will be required to complete 30 hours of community service, complete anger management and be prohibited from owning or working with animals during the period of his probation.