ASBURY PARK — A city man threatened the welfare of his girlfriend's two toy poodles in a text exchange with the woman, then followed through by killing one of the dogs and abandoning the other, authorities said Wednesday.

The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said in a release that Nicholas Winter, 35, is charged with third-degree animal cruelty resulting in death and a disorderly persons offense of abandoning a domestic animal in the incident investigated by Asbury Park police on June 4.

Just before 4 AM on that date, the prosecutor's office said, officers responded to a Locust Drive home and discovered the resident's 12-year-old male poodle, Bentley, deceased. Bentley is seen at the right in a photo disseminated by the prosecutor's office.

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The other dog in the photo, a 14-year-old female poodle named Sophia, was reported missing at the time of the initial police response but was found in the area later that day.

Prosecutors said an investigation revealed that Winter and his girlfriend, who was not identified, had had an argument after which Winter repeatedly texted her while she was at work, threatening the animals.

A necropsy found that Bentley died due to blunt-force trauma, according to authorities.

"Taking the life of a defenseless animal as a means to emotionally traumatize its owner is reprehensible and tragic," Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey said in Wednesday's release.

If convicted on the third-degree charge, Winter could face up to five years in New Jersey state prison.

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