Authorities seek Falls man who shot and killed three pet dogs

Jan. 10—Authorities are looking for a former Falls man in connection with what has been described as a "brutal act of animal cruelty."

Investigators with the SPCA of Niagara and the Niagara County Sheriff's Office have issued warrants for the arrest of Richard "Richie" C. Russell, 50, on three felony counts of animal cruelty for the shooting — at point blank range — of his three dogs. The shooting took place at a location in Burt, a hamlet in the Town of Newfane, on Thursday morning.

The dogs, two beagle mixes named Lucy Lou and Moo and a pit bull-type, named Princess, were each reportedly shot in the head by Russell.

SPCA officials said they received word of the shootings from the Niagara County Sheriff's Office on Thursday and their investigators interviewed witnesses to the shooting. On Friday, the SPCA investigators were joined by the Niagara County Sheriff's Office Crime Scene Unit and were able to find the burial site and exhumed all three dogs.

The investigators also retrieved shell casings that were found at the shooting scene.

The bodies of the three dogs taken back to the SPCA's Lockport Road shelter for an examination and X-rays. The SPCA says all three dogs were shot with a 22-caliber rifle and medical personnel removed bullet fragments from the jaw of one of the dogs.

Investigators said they have recovered the rifle they believe was used in the shooting and it was "taken into evidence."

SPCA of Niagara Executive Director Amy Lewis said that their investigation showed that Russell, his wife and their three dogs, a cat, two turtles and two fish were evicted from their Whitney Avenue apartment in the Falls on Wednesday morning. The cat, turtles and fish were left behind in the apartment, but the couple took their dogs.

The couple and the dogs reportedly went to stay with a relative in Burt but they were unable to find anyone to shelter the dogs. Witnesses said Russell then turned a rifle on the pets.

"They didn't have anyone to take the dogs, so he shot them," a clearly shaken Lewis told the Gazette. "I just can't imagine how someone can do that."

After killing the dogs, investigators believe that Russell and his wife were "dropped off at a bus station in Buffalo Thursday morning. SPCA investigators retrieved the cat, turtles and fish that were left behind in the Whitney Avenue apartment over the weekend.

"The state of animal welfare is dire these days," Lewis said.

Investigators believe that Russell may be staying with a relative in North Carolina and they believe he is aware that felony arrest warrants have been issued for him.