Local family pleads guilty in animal cruelty case

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:46

    WARWICK-Owners do not have to physically abuse a pet or farm animal to be charged with cruelty. Neglect is also against the law. Last July, the Warwick Valley Humane Society received an anonymous complaint about a dog living with a Greenwood Lake family. The caller reported that the animal looked as though it might be dying. "We had a history with this family," said Suzyn Barron. "Last January we had received numerous complaints about the living conditions for this same dog." Barron, president of the Warwick Valley Humane Society, explained that, at that time, the owners offered to surrender the dog, a five-year-old Cocker Spaniel named "Tramp," because they claimed they never had the money to take him to a veterinarian. But when it came time to bring him to the Warwick Animal Shelter, they changed their minds. They also obtained a proper license and took him for his rabies shot. But Tramp then spent most of his time outside without shelter, which, under new legislation, is also a violation. In July, however, after the most recent complaint, Animal Control Officer Dawn Woody went to investigate and immediately noticed that Tramp was not able to stand and that he appeared emaciated. The owners told her that he had been that way for about a week and again reported that they didn't have the time or the money to take him to the veterinarian. They finally agreed to surrender Tramp to the Humane Society. After arriving at the organization's shelter, he was taken to a veterinarian for an examination. There he was diagnosed with severe anemia due to a flea infestation and an emaciated body condition. He was given a 50/50 chance of living. "He survived the night," said Barron. "The next day we had a professional groomer come to the shelter because of the fleas and because he was so badly matted. We kept nursing him back to health and within a week he was bouncing all over the place." After two failed adoptions, however, it was obvious that Tramp wanted nothing to do with kids despite coming from a house with two children. But there is a happy ending. "Last month," said Barron, "we found the right couple to take him home and give him all the attention and affection he had never known." Meanwhile, the owners were charged with animal cruelty and were scheduled to go for a jury trial earlier this month. At the last minute, however, the District Attorney offered a plea bargain with a fine and a "no more pets ever" provision. One of the owners then pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for a violation of the New York State Agriculture and Markets Law, Article 26 Section 353. The law requires animal owners to provide sustenance including veterinary and grooming care. "They could have been given a heavier penalty but, nevertheless, it was a lesson since they lost time from work during all the appearances and they also had attorney fees," said Barron. "But the good news and the two most important factors in this case is that the dog was saved and this family is no longer allowed to have any pets."