Man charged with animal cruelty for repeatedly punching dog


Updated 11 am, Nov. 7

Martha’s Vineyard is a pet friendly environment, which makes a charge of animal cruelty stand out in the weekly court docket. On November 25, Fernando Freire, 24, of Tisbury is scheduled to appear before Edgartown District Court Judge Gregory Williams for a pretrial conference. He is accused of repeatedly punching his dog, a pit-bull named Latty, on September 24. According to the police report, Susan Christopher, who reported the abuse, said she saw Mr. Freire repeatedly punch his dog with a closed fist while it was restrained in the bed of his Toyota pickup truck, at the intersection of Spring and William Streets in Vineyard Haven.

Ms. Christopher said she called animal control to report the abuse as she followed Mr. Freire to Lagoon Pond Road. Tisbury Animal Control Officer Laurie Clements was called to the scene.

“We really don’t get cruelty calls,” Ms. Clements told The Times in a telephone call. “Because the new laws are so strict when it comes to cruelty, I can’t remember another cruelty case where its been allegedly physical. Never like this.”

Heather Fulp was the owner of the dog. In an email to Ms. Clements, Ms. Fulp said, “Unfortunately, the decision to sell Latty to Fernando was not solely within my power to dicate, the decision was shared with my then partner/boyfriend.”

Ms. Fulp said that when she first met Mr. Freire he seemed nice. She said it was her partner who was responsible for the sale. Ultimately, her view of Mr. Freire changed. “He’s an irresponsible and immature kid. He should not be allowed to have this dog or any other dog in the future,” she said.

Mr. Freire, a 2009 Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School graduate, has a record of court appearances that include arrests for assault and drug possession.

Clarification: This story was updated to include a statement from Ms. Fulp, included in the email to Ms. Clements, in which Ms. Fulp explained that she was not fully responsible for selling the dog to Mr. Freire.