Update: The charge against April Nastasi was dismissed by prosecutors on Oct. 22, 2021. Court records show that prosecutors intended to refile the charges via a grand jury. As of Dec. 27, 2021, no new charges have been filed.
LAS CRUCES - A Las Cruces-area dog trainer was charged with extreme animal cruelty last week after Doña Ana County sheriff's deputies say she electrocuted a dog in her care with a cattle prong.
April Nastasi, 50, owner of April's K911 Academy, was charged with one count of extreme cruelty to animals, according to a criminal complaint filed on Aug. 27.
One of Nastasi's customers, Graciela Rodriguez, dropped their 3-year-old, 70-pound Malamute named Thor at Nastasi's home in mid-July. Thor was to be boarded for a few days as Rodriguez's house was damaged when a tree crushed it during the July storms, she told the Sun-News.
"We all had to evacuate," Rodriguez said.
While searching for a place to board Thor, Rodriguez said she found Nastasi and chose her business because of the reviews. It was the first time she'd ever taken Thor to Nastasi.
She dropped Thor off on July 19. That same day Rodriguez got a text from Nastasi saying Thor had been in a fight.
Nastasi said Thor was unharmed from the dog fight, according to Rodriguez. Still, Rodriguez told deputies she was concerned.
Rodriguez asked Nastasi to send pictures and updates of her dog throughout the week so that she could keep an eye on Thor. As the week went on, Rodriguez said the photos got worse.
"It was concerning because he looked sad," she said. "Thor is a very energetic dog."
Another photo showed Thor sleeping on the floor without his favorite pillow. Another showed Thor turning away. As more photos came in, Rodriguez became more concerned.
She went to pick up her dog a day early on July 25.
When Rodriguez arrived, Rodriguez said Nastasi told her she could not have Thor back because the dog had suffered injuries from the fight a few days prior. Nastasi said Thor was being treated for a puncture wound and hematoma, Rodriguez told sheriff's deputies.
But Rodriguez didn't buy it. She called law enforcement who returned the custody of Thor to her. Thor was covered in bandages and was wincing in pain, according to deputies. Thor was transported to an El Paso animal hospital.
When sheriff's deputies and animal control officers looked into Nastasi's business, they said they found that the long-time trainer was licensed to train dogs but not to board them. Police said her home was set up to board a few dogs at a time.
Nastasi told deputies that Thor was the aggressor in a fight with a bulldog and with a mastiff. Nastasi typically uses a cattle prong to break up fights between dogs that she boards, she told police. She said she shocked Thor about six times because of his long fur.
Once the dog fight ended, Nastasi said she put Thor in a kennel outside for two days while she attended to other matters. On July 25, she said noticed an order of rotting flesh from the kennel.
When Nastasi examined Thor, she told sheriff's deputies she discovered an infected puncture wound and a drained hematoma. She said she administered medical care herself including giving Thor the anti-biotic drug Clinamycim and the anti-inflammatory drug Rimadyl.
She said planned on taking Thor to the El Paso animal hospital that day but had to attend a class first. She said she was nervous and fearful to notify Thor's owner of his condition and felt administering care herself would be better.
Nastasi described the injury as "ugly" but not life-threatening. A veterinarian that treated Thor disagreed.
When deputies spoke with the El Paso veterinarian who treated Thor, the doctor described the dog's bandaging as makeshift and nearly covering the injuries. The doctor said Thor's wounds were severely infected. She said all three wounds appeared to have been neglected for multiple days.
She described the injuries as "horrifying," according to deputies.
After her arrest, Nastasi was released on her own recognizance. She's scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 22.
As for Thor, Rodriguez said he's hanging in there. She said he's scheduled for a second surgery this week.
"He's a trooper. He's strong," she said.
Rodriguez declined to comment if she planned on pursuing a civil lawsuit.
Nastasi did not respond to a request for comment. However, on Facebook, she posted, "I'mmm HOME!! Thank You Every One for the positive ENERGY! ARRESTED (10amfri-mon7pm) & Charged with Extreme Cruelty to Animals 30-18-1(E), NMSA 1978 WE CAN BEAT THIS, & THE BEST PART. . .We get to educate the world how their have energy affects their pup."
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This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: Las Cruces-area dog trainer accused of using cattle prong on a customer's dog