Gary Kushner & Amy Phillips

Starved a dog to death

Port Vue, PA

Aug. 3, 2001

Dog officer Kenneth Ferree received a call to investigate an animal cruelty problem he knew the situation was going to be bad. Other complaints had been investigated at the same address previously, but he didn’t expect to find grisly proof of extreme neglect and abuse. A black male Labrador mix starved to death lay wrapped in a 4 feet leash around the 3-inch pole to which he was tethered in the basement. As a result the dog had been given just 30 inches of movement for several weeks before he died.

Neither denied that the dog, purchased from Fallen Timber Animal Shelter in January 1999 starved to death.

Phillips’ 14-year-old daughter found the dog dead and told her uncle. The uncle then informed police.

As the uncle descended into the poorly lit basement he could hardly see. When he walked downstairs with a flashlight a swarm of fleas and flies burst up into the air. The room smelled awful. Then he saw the emaciated dead dog lying in a pool of filth. There were maggots and fleas all over the dog. He was so skinny there was just skin lying on his bones. The dog’s toenails had grown to nearly two inches in length at the time of his death. It must have been a very painful death he said.

When Phillips was questioned about the dog, she told the investigators that Kushner forbade them from giving the animal food or water. Bricker said she doesn't believe Phillips. "That dog was basically left to die". Phillips claimed the last time she fed the dog was "maybe a couple of days ago". Phillips stated she sometimes took canned goods from the pantry or gave the dog leftovers while her husband was sleeping or at work. Bricker asked if he left for work, why didn't you do something? - Simple, because she was willingly part of the whole sadistic picture.

The investigator found a computer with monitor turned on - within feet of the dog's corpse. A washer & dryer also was on nearby, as well as a lawnmower with freshly cut grass clippings on it. So these people were coming down to the basement of the house and did see the dog repeatedly. Upon further investigation it was reported that the homes' sewer had backed up into the basement where the dog was chained, expelling human waste into the basement.

When Kushner was questions he became belligerent and was placed under arrest and taken to McKeesport lockup. Ferree has cited both Kushner and Phillips at least twice in the past for inhumane conditions to the dog tied outside with no food and water.

Kushner & Phillips of 1812 Stegman Avenue were charged with animal cruelty and neglect. The necropsy showed the dog died of starvation but before he died he walked around in his own feces and urine.

Update April 20, 2002:  Kushner (Case # 200113383) and Phillips (Case # 200112504) pled guilty to starving the dog to death.

Update: April 23, 2002:  Both Kushner and Phillips received 2 years probation


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