The call to Northampton Township police last week for an unattended fire on a lawn seemed routine. What detectives found was anything but: a dog that had been shot in the eye and barbecued on a makeshift grill.
As sickening as the abuse was, the story turned out to be even more tragic. The 8-year-old greyhound, named Bonanza, had been rescued a few years ago from a cell-like kennel at a racetrack in China that animal rights activists had once dubbed “the worst racetrack in the world.”
David Wolf and his partners at the Philadelphia-based National Greyhound Adoption Program had saved Bonanza and hundreds of other dogs, bringing them 10,000 miles for the promise of adoption and better lives in America.
The promise was never fulfilled. Instead, the dog ended up with Nikolay Lukyanchikov, the Northampton man police say killed and burned him outside his home last week.
“I’ve been doing greyhound adoption for 33 years, and there have been lots of ups and downs,” Wolf said Wednesday. “This is the worst thing to happen to any dog that was here. The worst.”
Lukyanchikov, 48, was arrested outside his home early Friday, intoxicated and unable to speak, police said. He had lit a fire with $100 bills and used the flames to burn Bonanza on a barbecue grate he placed over a fire pit, court records said.
In addition to an aggravated animal cruelty charge, he faces charges of discharging a firearm into an occupied structure, reckless endangerment, and related offenses. He remains in custody in lieu of $1 million bail. There was no indication he had hired an attorney.
Northampton Police Chief Steven LeCompte said Wednesday that the investigation into Lukyanchikov remains active and that additional charges may be filed.
A woman who rented a room in Lukyanchikov’s house knew where he had adopted Bonanza, and contacted Wolf about the dog. Through records maintained by the Philadelphia-based nonprofit, Wolf was able to confirm that Bonanza was adopted by Lukyanchikov in October 2019, a few months after he had been brought to the area from Macau, China.
As with all potential adopters, Lukyanchikov was the subject of a background check by staff at the National Greyhound Adoption Program, Wolf said. No issues were found, and the references he listed gave him positive feedback.
“I can’t stress enough the sadness of this dog, who came so far,” Wolf said. “Dogs get rescued all the time, but they don’t often get rescued from the worst place in the world.”
Bonanza was rescued from the Canindrome, which animal rights activists once called “the worst racetrack in the world.” A 2011 investigation by the South China Morning Post found that 383 underperforming dogs were killed there in 2010.
The track closed in 2018 after the Macau government told its operator to move the races out of the gambling mecca’s downtown to make room for redevelopment, the New York Times reported.
Wolf said the dogs, including Bonanza, required significant medical attention when brought to the United States. After treatment, they were all given new homes, and Wolf said his office routinely receives updates about the positive impacts the dogs have in their owners’ lives.
“Bonanza’s death is absolutely crushing,” Wolf said. “We worked so hard, and in this case so far, to give him a second chance.”