Maximus As reported earlier, Derick Phanord, 22, of 156 Cocoanut St. in Brentwood was arrested last night on suspicion of animal cruelty in the death of ‘Maximus,’ the pit bull that was tied to a tree and set on fire.

In custody, Phanord confessed that the dog was his and that he committed the heinous acts against this poor dog because “the dog it acted aggressively toward his family and a younger dog he owned.”Derick Phanord

This is his justification against a dog that “was good-natured to the end, said Reed Zaroff of the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island, one of the veterinarians who tried to save him. “He was a good dog up until the very end … giving licks and kisses.”

A Brentwood man confessed to soaking his pit bull with gasoline and setting the dog on fire, and said he did so because it was too aggressive toward his family, Suffolk County officials said at a Tuesday news conference.

The dog, named Maximus by the emergency veterinarians who tried to save it, was found tied to a tree burned over 60 percent of its body.

Derick Phanord, 22, of 156 Cocoanut St. in Brentwood, was arrested at 11:30 p.m. Monday after the Suffolk police got a tip that he was the dog’s killer, police Commissioner Richard Dormer said.

“You wonder what kind of depravity is within one’s mind,” county Executive Steve Levy said.

When he heard of the dog’s agonizing death last week, Levy said, “It actually turned my stomach.”

The department put out an alert for Phanord’s vehicle and a gang unit officer spotted him, Dormer said.

Phanord was arrested for driving with a suspended license and when detectives interviewed him he admitted first pouring chlorine bleach on the dog, then taking it to woods 1 1/2 miles from his Brentwood house where he poured gasoline on it from a red plastic container and set it on fire, the police said.

There the dog remained, tied to a tree, possibly for two days of suffering before he was found, said Chief Roy Gross of the Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who also spoke at Levy’s news conference in Hauppauge. Levy said he will revamp the way the county police monitor animal abuse.

One detective in each precincts will develop a part-time specialty in investigating animal cruelty, Levy said.

Also, Levy plans to lobby the state Legislature for an amendment to Buster’s Law, which now provides a maximum penalty of two years in prison for aggravated cruelty to animals. Levy wants to increase potential penalty to a five-year maximum prison term.

Levy also wants to establish a permanent reward fund aimed at encouraging confidential animal cruelty tips to the Crime Stoppers hotline. And he wants detective squads to work more closely with the SPCA.

Dormer said media coverage of the pit bull’s death generated numerous tips that led the police to target Phanord. Once in custody Phanord confirmed that he was the owner of the pit bull, and said he had gotten the dog as a gift two months ago, Dormer said. He justified his actions by saying the dog it acted aggressively toward his family and a younger dog he owned, Dormer said.

County officials on Tuesday had on display the red plastic gasoline container that Phanord allegedly brought with him when he immolated the dog.

Phanord was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday at First District Court in Central Islip after spending the night in the Third Precinct lockup. He is also charged with criminal possession of a weapon, a bludgeon — a billy club — found when his car was stopped.

The dog, named Maximus by emergency veterinarians, was found July 12 with second- and third-degree burns over 60 percent of his body.

The Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals last week said a reward had increased to $20,000 for information leading to whoever killed Maximus.

The dog smelled of gasoline when found with severe burns on the face and ears, wounds to its upper palate and teeth loss, the SPCA said.

Maximus died last Tuesday despite undergoing three surgeries and other veterinary care.

The 2-year-old, approximately 55-pound male dog was discovered on a right-of-way near Sycamore and Apple streets. Gross said that the SPCA got an overwhelming response of calls from people who were “disgusted” that a human would treat an animal this way. The dog was in good condition and was well fed before it was set afire, Gross said. (Newsday)

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