What to Know
- A scuffle between three dogs in July on Long Island led to the death of a pit bull and now the dog's owners and thousands other want justice
- Huynh Toquoc pleaded not guilty Thursday for allegedly choking his neighbors' pit bull Rex to death. He said he was protecting his own dog
- Advocates for Pit Bulls, the breed often-stigmatized, say they want the district attorney to add a harsher felony animal cruelty charge
A scuffle between three dogs in July on Long Island led to the death of a pit bull — and at an emotional court hearing Thursday for the man accused of choking the dog to death, over 100 dog owners showed up and demanded justice for Rex.
The event on July 14 started out as a normal day as Elana Greenfield and Dominic Primerano put their beloved 2-year-old Pit Bull on a leash and went for a walk in their Central Islip apartment's courtyard. That's when they say and their neighbor Huynh Toquoc's Shih Tzu and Steve Roger's goldendoodle started a scuffle with Rex.
Toquoc then intervened and allegedly went after Rex and choked him to death. Greenfield and Primernano recalled Toquoc making "vulgar statements" along the lines of that Rex is a pit bull and that he was "being put down tonight."
Greenfield also claimed that Toquoc assaulted her in the process of struggling to free Rex, whom she called a loving dog.
"He choked him out, suffocated him and threw him to the ground," Primerano said.
At his hearing at Suffolk County District Court on Thursday, Toquoc pleaded not guilty to animal cruelty and misdemeanor charges and told the judge that it was an act of self-defense, that he was only protecting his own dog. He didn't make any statements to reporters and pushed through the court's hallway that was full of protesters wearing #JusticeForRex t-shirts.
Advocates for Pit Bulls, the breed often-stigmatized for being violent, say they want the district attorney to add a felony animal cruelty charge for Toquoc. A Change.org petition demanding the harsher aggravated animal cruelty charge has over 274,000 signatures as of Friday morning.
"This can't happen that you can just kill a dog because it's a pit bull," said one of the protesters Christine Singer.
An attorney for Rex's owners, Nora Constance Marino, says "What kind of precedent are we going to set here. Any time a dog gets into a scuffle or a fight in the park the proper action is to kill one of the dogs? That's absurd."
Rex was the only dog out of the three that had a leash on him when the scuffle occurred.
Rogers, the third dog's owner, told The New York Times that he thought that "it was going to be curtains for my dog." He has his own court date for taking his dog outside without a leash, the paper reported.
Toquoc is expected back in court on Oct. 24.