Buffalo Teens Allegedly Confess to Burning Puppy

November 14, 2012 Updated Nov 14, 2012 at 7:42 PM EDT

By Kyla Igoe

November 14, 2012 Updated Nov 14, 2012 at 7:42 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW)- Two Buffalo teenagers have been arrested and charged as adults for allegedly setting a puppy on fire. Buffalo Police say 19-year-old Adell Zeigler and 17-year-old Diondre Brown confessed to pouring lighter fluid on a Jack Russell Terrier puppy and setting the dog on fire two weeks ago on Herman Street in Buffalo.

"They said they hung the dog up 3ft in the air and doused it with lighter fluid. We're just not sure which one set it on fire," said Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda.

The puppy, who is now 18 weeks old and nicknamed Phoenix, is still recovering at the Buffalo Small Animal Hospital. Phoenix recently underwent his first of many surgeries to help repair the damage from extensive burns over his entire body. Veterinarians say 60% of his ears have been amputated and several more skin grafts are necessary. It's also still unclear if they will have to amputate one of his hind legs.

"He's been a trooper through the whole thing," said Dr. Rebecca Wagner, Buffalo Small Animal Hospital Veterinarian. "He improves daily. He's doing quite well and he's taken everything in good strides."

Police say both teens have criminal backgrounds. Zeigler is currently on probation for an unrelated crime. At their arraignment in court Wednesday, a relative revealed that Ziegler is actually Brown's uncle. Brown's grandmother tells Eyewitness News her grandson is emotionally scarred because he witnessed his mother and another relative murdered in 2005.

"He didn't do this," insisted Robin Brown, Diondre Brown's Grandmother. "He's not capable of doing this. He just doesn't have that type of hatred in his heart, the other people who killed his mother, yes."

Buffalo Police say they were finally able to make arrests in this case thanks to tips from the community and good detective work. The suspects are facing felony aggravated animal cruelty charges. They are due back in Buffalo City Court Monday afternoon.