EAST GARFIELD PARK — A West Side man is facing felony animal cruelty charges after prosecutors alleged he intentionally ran over the paw of his neighbor's dog with his lawnmower, breaking the mastiff's bones.
The May 14 run-in was caught on the dog owner's security video. It shows a man — allegedly Montey Caston, 52 — mowing a backyard lawn in East Garfield Park as two Neapolitan mastiffs run along a wrought-iron fence in the next yard.
The man in the video at one point pushes the mower at the fence after one of the dogs — Vesta — stuck a paw under the fence.
The 2-year-old dog then limps away, with her brother, Janus, following her around the yard with apparent concern.
Prosecutors allege Caston, a handyman who lives down the block, did it on purpose. They slapped felony animal cruelty charges on him this week, and Cook County Judge Donald Panarese Jr. ordered him held on $75,000 bond.
Caston's mother, Rose Burns, insists her son loves animal and didn't hurt the dog on purpose.
Vesta's owner, Darin Tsoulos, disagreed.
"Montey's little stunt has cost me $1,800 already," Tsoulos, 48, said from his home in the 3300 block of West Fulton Boulevard.
Vesta was found by her owners "covered in blood" about 10 p.m. the night of the incident.
A veterinarian later performed surgery on Vesta to remove two fractured bones from her left paw and wrapped it in a heavy bandage.
Vesta and her brother, a larger Neapolitan mastiff named Janus, live with Tsoulos "like members of the family."
"They were raised walking in parks and hanging out at [dog-friendly] Small Bar," he said.
On Thursday, more than two weeks after her run-in with the lawnmower, Vesta stumbled around Tsoulos's kitchen greedily looking for affection.
"She loves the extra attention, sleeping upstairs with us in the air conditioning," said Tsoulos' girlfriend, Troy Morris, 52. "But it's been hard on the boy. He was a witness."
Made groggy by pain medicine, the injured animal leaned against Tsoulos and wagged her tail weakly as he queued up the video surveillance footage he provided police.
The time-stamped video appears to shows a man pushing a lawnmower around his neighbor's backyard. Vesta is bounding up and down the length of a fence separating Tsoulos' yard from the neighbor's until the man appears to ram the lawnmower beneath it and onto her front paws.
The dog retreats, hobbling away from the fence with her litter mate close behind. The man goes back to mowing.
Cook County prosecutors alleged Thursday that the man in the video is Caston.
Tsoulos said Caston works around the neighborhood and has done occasional work for him.
"Montey has known the puppies since they were 7 or 8 weeks old," Tsoulos said. "You just can't know what was in his mind."
Burns, Caston's mother, said "Montey would never do this to an animal. He loves them."
She said she believes Caston accidentally ran over Vesta's paw.
"It was night time, and the lawnmower must have been making a lot of noise," said Burns, 86.
Dogs may not hold grudges, but owners sometimes do.
Tsoulos said he hopes Caston will have to serve time in jail.
"I love my dogs. I've always loved dogs," he said. "He showed no compassion."