HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A Long Island man has been charged with killing his neighbor’s dog. That dog’s owners are now speaking out about the cruel act.

They say the killing was unjustified and the punishment from police doesn’t fit his crime.

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“He was a great dog, everyone loved him,” the couple said.

The Hauppauge couple is shattered over the killing of their dog. They say they tried desperately to stop their neighbor from choking the life out of their beloved Rex.

“I was walking Rex from there, that’s when his Shih Tzu attacked.”

On Sunday their pit bull, rescued from a shelter and professionally trained to stay calm, was reportedly on a leash when two other dogs in their apartment complex were unleashed.

Long Island pit bull Rex was killed by a neighbor in an allegedly unprovoked attack. (Credit: CBS2)

A Shih Tzu and a golden doodle each separately instigating a fight with Rex.

“The golden doodle charged on my dog, bit him in the neck… the golden doodle was latched, lock jaw on my dog’s throat.”

The couple tried to separate the dogs, getting injured in the process, that’s when they say the Shih Tsu’s owner – unprovoked – strangled Rex to death.

“Came running out, ‘he is a pit bull he deserves to die,’ went like this to my dog in front of my eyes. Squashed his neck and held his nostril,” Elana Greenfield said.

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“He just stayed on top to him, we tried pulling him off and he was squeezing him and there was another dog owner who said ‘bro what are you doing you’re gonna kill the dog, you’re going to kill the dog.’ ‘I don’t care he’s a pit bull,’” Dominic Primerano recalled.

Rex’s owners, Dominic Primerano and Elana Greenfield (Credit: CBS2)

Suffolk police charged neighbor Huynh Toquoc with animal cruelty – a misdemeanor.

The golden doodle owner was also cited for having an unleashed dog. Neither could be reached for comment.

All a slap on the wrist says the anguished couple and others signing a petition to increase charges when a dog is unjustifiably killed.

“Pit bulls are stereotyped… That is so undeserved… He murdered our dog for no reason,” the couple added.

They’re seeking upgraded felony charges of aggravated animal cruelty which applies to cases of animal torture.

Suffolk police told CBS2 the alleged actions fit the misdemeanor charge, but would not elaborate on their reasoning.

The penalty for animal cruelty as a misdemeanor in New York is a $1,000 fine or up to a year in jail.

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Killing a dog may be legally justified if it’s deemed dangerous, but not if a dog is protecting itself from an assault by another animal.