Man faces animal cruelty charges after pit bulls found in basement

Two of the puppies found in the basement.
Rob Halpin, MSPCA
Two of the puppies found in the basement.

A Lawrence man is facing 11 animal cruelty charges after police and animal control officials discovered a group of pit bull puppies in the putrid, windowless cellar of his apartment building, officials said.

Pierre Cassagnol-Reyes, 30, will be summoned to court on the charges, as well as any additional charges that may arise after further investigation and veterinary examinations of the dogs, police said.

Lawrence Animal Control Officer Ellen Bistany received a call May 14 from a maintenance worker, saying he had seen a number of dogs kept in “terrible conditions” in the cellar of an apartment building on Cedar Street.


Bistany requested that Lawrence police Sergeant Robert DiBenedetto and MSPCA Law Enforcement Officer Martha Parkhurst accompany her on the visit.

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Standing on the sidewalk outside the building, the three officers “could already pick up the wafting odor of fecal matter and stale urine from the location,” DiBenedetto wrote in a police report, adding that the “vile smell similar to garbage left to ferment” increased as they neared the cellar door.

Maximo Perez, the building’s owner, acknowledged that several of his tenants had already threatened to move out due to the odor.

Cassagnol-Reyes, who lived on the second floor, came out to meet the officers, saying he was the owner of the dogs.

When the door to the windowless cellar was opened, “what can only be described as a putrid reeking of animal waste and filth began to pour” out, DiBenedetto wrote.


After descending a flight of rickety stairs into the cellar, officers discovered six puppies who began to bark, jump, and paw at their makeshift wire cages to gain the officers’ attention.

The floor beneath them was covered in garbage and feces, DiBenedetto wrote.

Cassagnol-Reyes admitted to having two additional dogs on the upper floors, but further investigation revealed it was actually five, the report said.

Police entered the apartment, which was described as unclean and in disarray, and found a small child sitting in a high chair, the report said.

DiBenedetto requested an evaluation by the state Department of Children and Families. Two caseworkers placed the children in the care of Cassagnol-Reyes’ extended family for the night.


The puppies were taken to the Lawrence Animal Control Center, MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, and MSPCA Nevins Farm in Methuen for treatment.

All of the 5-to-6-week old puppies have made full recoveries and have been adopted, said MSPCA spokesman Rob Halpin.

“Despite the terrible conditions in which they were found, I’m told they’re supersocial,” Halpin said Wednesday in a telephone interview.

Catalina Gaitan can be reached at catalina.gaitan@
. Follow her on Twitter at @catalina_gaitan.