Soap opera actor Nick Santino and his beloved Pit-bull, Rocco can be counted as two more victims of bullying and harassment in our society. The grief stricken actor tragically committed suicide last week after pressure mounted from tenants at his New York condo to euthanize his dog.
Last Tuesday was Nick Santino’s 47th birthday, but the soap opera actor who appeared in “All My Children and “Guiding Light” was too heartbroken to notice. Earlier that day, he had taken his 5 year-old dog to the veterinarian to be “put to sleep.”
“Today I betrayed my best friend and put down my best friend,” Santino wrote in a suicide note, said close friend Stuart Sarnoff. “Rocco trusted me and I failed him. He didn’t deserve this.”
Santino put the blame on strict dog regulations that went into effect in 2010 in the One Lincoln Plaza apartment building where he and Rocco lived. Those regulations included a ban on Pit-bulls. Rocco and other large dogs that already lived in the building were allowed to stay, but it became apparent they were not wanted by fellow tenants or the management.
Tenants say the dog owners were subjected to “relentless pressure” to get rid of their pets. And as the owner of the only Pit-bull in the building, Santino and Rocco got the brunt of the harassment.
“People were complaining about his dog,” said neighbor Kevan Cleary. “It was open season on him.”
Rocco wasn’t allowed to ride in the main elevators and false claims of excessive barking were filed against him. Management threatened Santino with heavy fines and restricted the number of hours he could leave the dog alone in his apartment.
Cleary said. “He felt like he was in this battle he was the only guy in the building with a pit-bull mix.”
After Santino put Rocco down, he gave some of his dog treats to the doorman of the building. The doorman said his eyes were overflowing with tears. Later he left Rocco’s dog bed and two rawhide bones at the doors of other neighbors.
That night Santino made a final call to his former girlfriend and at 2a.m. on Wednesday, police found his body in his bedroom. He passed away after an apparent overdose on pills.
Nick Santino who was raised in an orphanage and foster homes, adopted Rocco from a shelter. He wrote on his Facebook page, “I did not rescue Rocco, Rocco rescued me.”
Rocco’s ashes will be buried with Santino.
Meanwhile the board of directors at One Lincoln Plaza say they are not responsible for Santino’s death. “It’s all a shame, condo board member Marily Fineman told the New York Post: ‘But it has nothing to do with the pet policy.’
Take Action: Animal Farm Foundation is hosting “A Vigil for Victims of Canine Discrimination” on February 4 in memory of Nick Santino and Rocco.
Photo from sugarhiccuphiccup via flickr