STATEN ISLAND — A former City Council candidate who posed with his rescue dog while arguing for animal shelter reform during his campaign caught flak this week after he returned his pet to the pound.
The nonprofit organization Urgent Death Row Dogs put up a Facebook post Monday saying former Mid-Island council candidate John Mancuso took his 1-year-old pit bull mix Tiger back to Animal Care and Control on Staten Island on Sunday.
Mancuso said he loved the dog, but had been ordered by his landlord to get rid of the pup.
"I had no choice," he said. "I've had the dog since September and I loved the dog, but unfortunately my landlord told me I had to get rid of him because he was too hyper when I wasn't home."
While online commenters criticized Mancuso for taking the dog back to the shelter, he said he never feared Tiger would be euthanized, as many unwanted animals in shelters are.
"I brought him back Sunday evening, by Monday afternoon he was already adopted," he said. "They're overreacting."
However, Kay Smith, head of Urgent Death Row Dogs, said she and others were disappointed that Mancuso gave the dog back to the shelter when he knew that they put down animals.
"He went against everything he was campaigning for," Smith said.
"I'm more upset that he stood there in interviews and used the issue to gain support, and then turned around and brought the dog right back to the same hellhole. It kind of makes you not trust him."
Even though a cute puppy like Tiger was easily adoptable, Smith said many of the animals come down with kennel pox in their short stay at shelters and are put on the kill list because of it.
Mancuso, a Democrat, ran against Republican Steven Matteo for the Mid-Island City Council seat that was vacated by James Oddo, who became borough president. He ultimately lost to Matteo, but while campaigning he had a picture with his dog prominently on his old website and spoke about shelter reform in interviews.
"The system currently in place is both inhumane and downright cruel," Mancuso told the Staten Island Advance in September. He singled Animal Care and Control out for criticism.
"Thousands of New Yorkers are willing to adopt these animals, but the city has failed at matching them with a home. This practice is unacceptable and I will introduce legislation on day one to end this abhorrent treatment of our city's animals."
Mancuso told DNAinfo New York that he was told by workers at the shelter that Tiger would not be euthanized.
"A dog like Tiger is adoptable, I had trust that they weren't lying to me," Mancuso said. "I've had the dog for eight months, of course I was attached to the dog, but I couldn't find a new place to live. That wasn't an option either."
Animal Care and Control didn't respond to requests for comment.
Mancuso said he's still an animal rights activist and was still working to help save turkeys in South Beach that are facing a cull — an issue he stood up for during his campaign.
Smith, whose nonprofit puts pictures of at-risk shelter dogs online in an effort to get them adopted, said that even if he couldn't keep the dog, bringing it back to the shelter wasn't the right option.
"It doesn't negate the fact that he did bring the dog to the shelter knowing that they do euthanize," she said. "He played it off that he was misled, but he should know this."