Mineola couple faces animal abuse charges in death of two puppies

Ellie and Jessica Knoller, a Mineola couple, face charges related to animal cruelty. They're due again in court on June 3. (Photos courtesy of the Nassau County District Attorney's Office)
Ellie and Jessica Knoller, a Mineola couple, face charges related to animal cruelty. They're due again in court on June 3. (Photos courtesy of the Nassau County District Attorney's Office)

A Mineola man killed two puppies just days after getting them, according to the Nassau County District Attorney’s office, with his wife also facing charges for allegedly allowing the abuse and near-death of a third puppy.

Ellie Knoller, 29, of Mineola, faces charges of three counts of aggravated cruelty to animals – an E felony – and three counts of overdriving, torturing and injuring animals, an A-grade misdemeanor. His wife Jessica Kuncman, 30, also known as Jessica Knoller, faces one charge of overdriving, torturing and injuring animals.

Ellie Knoller, if convicted on the top count, faces up of two years in jail. Jessica Knoller faces a maximum of one year in jail.

“Three healthy puppies suffered horrific injuries while they were under the care and control of these defendants,” Nassau County DA Madeline Singas said. “Sadly, these animals can’t testify about the unconscionable suffering that they endured, but their blunt force and neck trauma injuries tell a gruesome story, and we are committed to seeking justice on their behalf.”

Ellie Knoller, 29, allegedly adopted a 10-12-week-old Sherpherd mix named Tucker on Feb. 8 from a local pet adoption agency. Nine days later the puppy died from kidney rupture, likely of blunt force trauma that led to extensive internal bleeding, prosecutors said.

A day later, prosecutors alleged that Knoller and his wife, Jessica, 30, purchased a brown Goldendoodle puppy named Cooper from a Pennsylvania breeder. Two days later, prosecutors said the dog was brought into Garden City Veterinary Care in cardiac and respiratory arrest.

Cooper’s death was determined to be from a lacerated liver, which prosecutors alleged stemmed from blunt force trauma that led to a lacerated liver and extensive, fatal internal bleeding.

Prosecutors said the incidents followed an investigation after the defendants allegedly brought in a lethargic and lifeless 11-week-old female Goldendoodle puppy named Bella to Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center of Westbury on Feb. 27.

Kuncman did not take Bella to a veterinarian for about 15 hours after she appeared to be in pain, prosecutors also alleged.

Prosecutors said that veterinarians found multiple fractured ribs, bruises on her lungs, bleeding behind her eyes and a broken leg. Doctors performed surgery on Bella and had to insert a metal rod to repair her leg and a steel plate to hold her bones in place.

Gary Rogers, the president of the Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said that in his 35 years of animal crimes investigations, he has “never seen a case like this.”

(Photos courtesy of the Nassau County DA’s office and Nassau County SPCA.) 

“Practically beaten to death, it’s difficult to imagine someone could harm such a sweet little dog, but this is what happened to Bella, beaten and choked, leaving her with several broken ribs, her forearm broken in two places and a pulmonary contusion,” Rogers said. “It’s a miracle this little girl is alive and recovering – two other dogs were not so lucky.”

Bella is now in the care of the Nassau County SPCA, which is seeking financial assistance due to the cost of Bella’s medical care.

Greg Madey, an attorney for Knoller, could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday afternoon, but told the Daily News that the dogs became sick after they came home.

“He’s denied this from the get-go,” Madey said, according to the Daily News. “They’re horrible accusations, but [it’s] just as bad to be charged with something like this. They’re upset.”

Jeff Groder, a Mineola-based attorney representing Jessica Kuncman, said on Thursday that “prosecutors can say what they want” and evidence needs to be bared out, but there is documentation that Bella was taken to the veterinarians.

“Under the circumstances, it’s going to be my position that Ms. Kuncman acted properly,” Groder said.

Both Knoller and Kuncman were released on their own recognizance, surrendered their passports and are slated to return to court on June 3. Both have pleaded not guilty.


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