A Long Island man was arrested Saturday and charged with torturing and injuring an animal after he reportedly bit his family’s shih tzu, taking out the dog’s eye.
The Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) reported that Aaron Kluger, 20, of Port Washington, was charged following an investigation by SPCA detectives. The crime is a misdemeanor in New York.
SPCA officials said in a news release that the Kluger family dog, Chloe, was taken the night of Nov. 6 to an animal hospital, where she was diagnosed with a serious eye injury. The vet who examined Chloe determined that the dog’s right eye had been bitten out, dislodging it.
Chloe’s eye was reattached through surgery and the vet was hopeful that the organ, and her vision, could be saved, according to the news release. WPIX in New York reported that the dog was returned to Kluger’s parents, with whom he lives.
Gary Rogers, a spokesman for the SPCA, told the New York Daily News that Kluger was implicated in the crime when a family member told the staff at the animal hospital what happened.
“I hate to say I’ve seen it all, because every time I say it, I see something else,” Rogers told the newspaper.
Rogers said Chloe was in a playful mood when he visited her over the weekend.
“(Shih tzus are) friendly dogs. They’re popular dogs,” Rogers said. “She was wagging her tail and licking me.”
Kluger posted a video to his Facebook page Monday night of himself playing with Chloe. In the video, Kluger described news articles about the case as “very misleading” and called the vet’s findings of a “human-caused injury” false.
He said he would never hurt his dog. He also showed both of Chloe’s eyes, which, about a month after the injury, appear normal.
“You can see Chloe’s eye, right there, and there’s her other eye,” Kluger said, moving hair out of the dog’s face and petting her head. “There it is, perfectly intact. Yeah, no sign of anyone biting her eyes out, least of all me.”
He said he loves Chloe.
“How could you not love a cute little doggie like this?” he asked in a cooing voice as he rubbed her face.
Kluger’s father, Dan Kluger, told the Daily News that investigators blew the dog’s injury out of proportion. He said Chloe was injured accidentally while his son played with the animal.
“The eye was slightly displaced. It was a minor injury,” Dan Kluger said. “You should know that a shih tzu’s eye can be displaced just by pulling the skin back.”
Kluger, 58, also described Chloe’s treatment as “minor surgery.”
“They put it back in place,” he said. “It was hardly noticeable. I didn’t even think she required immediate medical attention.”
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reported that dogs of certain breeds, including shih tzus, have been known to lose eyes while playing. Displacement of the eyeball from the socket, or proptosis, often occurs when a small dog fights with a larger dog or suffers trauma to the face or head.
Proptosis is not unusual in brachycephalic dog breeds, or breeds with bulging eyes, short snouts and shallow eye sockets, the ASPCA website said. Besides shih tzus, that category also includes Pekingese, pugs, Lhasa apsos and Boston terriers.
Removal of the eye can be avoided with prompt medical attention and surgical intervention, the website said.
Aaron Kluger’s mother, Mary Kluger, said their son was playing with Chloe when her eye “busted out.” She said he was the one who insisted the dog be taken to the vet.
The Klugers told the Daily News they were not sure how the dog’s eye was injured.
Rogers said, however, that the vet was certain that Chloe suffered a human bite.
“A human bite is totally different from an animal bite,” Rogers told the newspaper. “The vet was able to figure out that somebody did this.”
Dan Kluger described his son as a heroin addict who quit school in the sixth grade due to social anxiety issues. The Port Washington school district had classified the boy as emotionally disabled.
Kluger insisted that his son had never hurt Chloe before and called the criminal charge “outrageous.”
“This is crazy,” Dan Kluger said. “They made it appear as if he performed vivisection on this dog. My son is suicidal now. He’s terribly upset.”
Aaron Kluger is due in court Dec. 27, SPCA officials said.
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