Concerns Still Remain in Animal Abuse Case
Posted on Sep 20, 2011 - 11:08 AM
Concerns still remain in animal abuse case
Written By: Jessie Forand
Affidavits describe conditions inside Bakersfield home
BAKERSFIELD – The State of Vermont has taken steps to make sure a Bakersfield woman who allegedly abused dozens of dogs will no longer have control over the animals.
Franklin County State’s Attorney Jim Hughes earlier this month signed a motion demanding that Karen Maple, 48, forfeit all rights to 54 dogs removed from her Hennessy Road property on July 26.
It also seeks forfeiture of 14 dogs she still has.
Affidavits from Trooper David Hurwitch and animal experts, who examined the animals, support the state’s arguments.
The action is necessary, states the motion, because of the overall condition of Maple’s property and “her extreme neglect of the dogs.”
The July 26 raid and confiscation of the animals was the culmination of a Vermont State Police investigation.
Maple’s 68 dogs were evaluated at the residence, and 54 were seized for inadequate food or water, improper sanitation, or need for medical attention. They were taken to shelters. Fourteen, deemed to be healthy and having received adequate care, remained. A pony and cats also were not seized.
According to police, Maple kicked a trooper as she was removed from the property. She has denied cruelty to animal and assault charges and is free awaiting trial.
Inside the home
Trooper David Hurwitch submitted a supplemental affidavit dated Aug. 9. He also offered sworn statements from animal experts.
Hurwitch recorded detailed information at the scene.
Peggy Larson, DVM, MS, JD, of Williston, spoke of conditions she saw on the day of the raid. “I have never in my life seen such filth as I saw on this premises,” she wrote.
Larson said dogs in three outhouses stood in ankle-deep filth. Others were in pens with no light, food, or water.
Maple’s three acres were fenced in and strewn with old cars, tires, garbage, broken glass, plastic bottle, dog feces, and so on, she said. Dogs were confined in areas with broken glass and pieces of metal.
“There wasn’t a blade of grass anywhere from the dogs running all over and from the garbage and junk,” Larson wrote, adding she observed dogs eating garbage and debris in the yard.
She said that behavioral issues were obvious, stating, “Several dogs attacked one dog and pinned it to the ground.”
Larson claimed years’ worth of feces and urine permeated the interior of the home. Floors and furniture were covered in garbage, bottles and cans, clothes, and the like. The ground was visible through holes in the floors
“Upstairs were two child swimming pools with baby puppies in them – 17 total,” Larson stated. “The pups were filthy and the mother dogs were skeletal.”
She said she opened a door to a smell worse than any she had ever encountered. He eyes burned from the ammonia fumes. In that room were four more dogs, also up to their ankles in excrement, she stated, adding, “In my opinion, this house was inhabitable by either humans or animals.”
The dogs in the house had serious bilateral conjunctivitis (from the ammonia in excrement), many were thin and unhealthy, and some had abdominal sores from fleas and filth, she said.
Larson suspected most had internal parasites. Some had stunted growth, poor coats, and showed signs of extreme thirst.
Also, she claimed, many were not socialized and were fearful of people.
“I believe that the facility is in such a state of filth and disrepair that the building should be condemned. No human or animal can live safely in the house,” she added.
Janet Carini, DVM, examined 28 of the animals after they had been in rehabilitative care for approximately 36 hours.
She said most were “very thin with protruding ribs, prominent lumbar vertebrae and hip/pelvic bones, a pronounced waist with abdominal tuck and variable degrees of muscle loss.”
Some were severely dehydrated; some showed signs of decreased/delayed development, which she explained is consistent with poor nutrition provided to the mother during gestation and lactation periods, as well as by intestinal parasites and competition for food. A few had bronchial changes, often seen with chronic exposure to high ammonia levels in air.
Carini listed medical conditions consistent with Larson’s observations.
Additionally, a third of the dogs showed current or previous bite wounds and many of the younger dogs showed tooth damage common with fence chewing. One dog in particular concerned Carini as she said her bottom jaw appeared to have been broken/pushed back. “She exhibited pain when I attempted to open her mouth. She moves her tongue abnormally and can only eat soft food,” she wrote.
Carini was notified on July 30 that one of the small puppies was deceased.
“It is my professional opinion that all of these animals have suffered from inadequate nutrition for an extended period of time, she concluded.
Of the 14 dogs still at Maple’s residence, Bakersfield Town Hall records show one male and seven females have not been neutered. This raised concern for the town’s animal control officer, Eric Jessiman. He also said Maple does not have kennel and breeding licenses.
Jessiman said Maple’s remaining female Labrador Retrievers could give birth to puppies twice a year. This could potentially mean a house full of dogs all over again, he said.
In the year-and-a-half he has held office, he said Maple has been his biggest problem. He claimed many had stopped complaining; stating Maple had intimidated and, perhaps, threatened locals.
Jessiman had hand-delivered a letter to the Vermont State Police written by a minor friend of Maple’s daughter expressing concern for the animals and girl.
Jessiman was not allowed on scene during the July 26 raid. Maple has told police that he harasses her and is aggressive and antagonistic, he said. Maple has called the police when Jessiman has entered her property, and he was issued a notice against trespass on Aug. 7 while checking on the remaining animals.
On May 6, after being advised of a neighbor dispute, Vermont State Police alleged that Maple’s son, Scott, 29, had been driving negligently, nearly striking Jessiman. Police cited Scott and his mother became irate and was subsequently cited for disorderly conduct, police said
Jessiman’s wife and daughter did volunteer to help in the animal seizure, and provided accounts of the home consistent with written statements.
“Why is this house not being condemned?” he asked.
Jessiman also expressed worry about Maple’s daughter, age 14 (whose name has been withheld because of her age). He claimed that the young girl, after witnessing her mother and pets taken away, was escorted off the premises by police officers.
While Maple was handcuffed, but not yet removed from the property, police affidavits state, “At this time her [Maple’s] behavior was exciting her juvenile daughter who was present and the daughter balled up her fists, grimaced and started toward one of the veterinarians. She was growling that they weren’t going to take her dogs away.” Police stepped in and calmed the daughter, preventing what was called an “imminent assault.”
Jessiman has attempted to contact the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to inquire as to what would happen with the teen. He said the scenario for the daughter is the same as – but more important than – that of the dogs.
“My concern about her is that unless she gets into a healthy, clean environment very soon she’s a lost person,” he said.
“I would say that the person with DCF involved with the Maple family, that person should be fired immediately and forced to spend seven days in the Maple residence, and the judge that allowed Karen Maple to homeschool her child should be forced to spend 24 hours in that residence.”
Files pertaining to any possible DCF cases are strictly confidential, and were therefore unavailable to the Messenger.
Efforts to reach Karen Maple’s lawyer for comment were unsuccessful.
St. Albans Messenger