Within 20 minutes of buying a rabbit at a Windham pet store on Oct. 11, New Britain resident Patryk Sochocki had mutilated it, cutting off its back legs, tail, and genitalia with a pair of scissors, according to the state police report supporting his arrest, which was filed in Vernon Superior Court.
As Sochocki, 25, drove with the bloodied rabbit in the back seat of his car, he began swerving on Route 32 in Willington around 7:20 p.m. and drastically changing speeds, actions that caught the attention of a state trooper from the Troop C barracks in Tolland, who pulled him over, the affidavit says.
Members of animal rights group showed up for man’s arraignment
Sochocki’s eyes were bloodshot and dilated, and the trooper could smell marijuana through the window, the report says.
However, the trooper then noticed white fur on Sochocki’s sweatshirt, bloodied scissors stuck with fur, and a bloodstained box in the front seat passenger area, the report says. Then he saw something else — on the floor in the back seat lay a bloodied and dying white, black, and brown rabbit, according to the report.
It had lost a lot of blood, the trooper said in the report, and he described Sochocki as having “tortured” it.
As a result of that traffic stop, Sochocki was charged with cruelty to animals, which is a misdemeanor, along with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence, failure to drive in the proper lane, and use of drug paraphernalia.
After he was charged, he was freed on a $5,000 nonsurety bond and sent to Rockville General Hospital in Vernon for a mental health exam, the report says.
The rabbit was brought to Bolton Veterinary Hospital, where it had to be euthanized, the report says.
On Wednesday, at Vernon Superior Court, where Sochocki showed up for his arraignment, he was met with about 10 people from Desmond’s Army, an animal rights group, all wearing the group’s signature purple T-shirts, and an advocate from the nonprofit House Rabbit Connection.
During the hearing, Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Jaclyn Preville upgraded the misdemeanor charge of cruelty to animals filed against Suchocki to first-degree malicious wounding/killing of an animal, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Sochocki pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the judge continued his case to Jan. 7.
Robin “Zilla” Cannamela, president of Desmond’s Army, said the group showed up for Sochocki’s court appearance to call attention to the seriousness of animal abuse, and because their goal is to have small animals like rabbits treated the same as cats and dogs under Desmond’s Law.
The law gives animal victims a voice by allowing courts to appoint advocates for them, but currently it only applies to cats and dogs.
Marlene Wilhelm, president of the nonprofit House Rabbit Connection, said that small animals like rabbits are just as likely as cats and dogs to be abused. The smaller the animal, the more defenseless they are, Wilhelm said.
But cases of abuse of small animals tend not to get as much publicity because people don’t think of them the same way, she said.
According to Wilhelm, rabbits are still considered livestock, even though they are the third most adopted animal in the country.
According to state police reports and a report completed by Willington Animal Control Officer Tina Binheimer, the following events led to Sochocki’s arrest: When the trooper pulled Sochocki over on Oct. 11, he denied having used any drugs or alcohol that day. It was while speaking to Sochocki that the trooper noticed white fur on his dark sweatshirt, a pair of bloodied scissors on the front passenger seat, and a bloodstained box on the floor.
In the backseat, on the floor, the trooper saw the rabbit, also bloodied. Sochocki told the trooper he was planning to feed the rabbit to wild birds in East Hartford.
Sochocki was taken into custody and the trooper searched his car.
Besides the rabbit, state police also found empty beer bottles and diapers inside a backpack. When questioned about them, Sochocki said the diapers were for him because he liked to wear them. State also found a glass smoking pipe.
Binheimer was called to the scene to retrieve the rabbit and assist with the investigation. Binheimer found that the rabbit was still alive, but its two back legs and tail had been cut off by Sochocki. She brought the rabbit to Bolton Veterinary Hospital, where it was euthanized.
Through the investigation, Binheimer discovered that Sochocki had purchased the rabbit from the All Pets Club pet store in Windham shortly before the trooper had pulled him over. She spoke with an employee there who sold the rabbit to him.
According to the employee, Sochocki entered the pet store around 6:50 p.m. and asked to use the bathroom. He seemed upset, and banged on the door of the bathroom even after the employee told him it was occupied.
Sochocki then left the store but returned a short time later asking about a rabbit. The employee wrote that she and another employee began helping Sochocki choose a rabbit to purchase. He picked one out that cost $74 and paid for it with a credit card, then “aggressively” picked up the box the rabbit was placed in and left the store.
The employee said she believed Sochocki had been in the store previously, but she couldn’t remember if he had purchased an animal.