Case Snapshot
Case ID: 16771
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: chicken, rabbit (pet), bird (other farmed)
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Wednesday, Nov 3, 2010

County: Providence

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Convicted

Defendant/Suspect: Robert Morelle

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

Police charged a Burrillville man with two dozen counts of cruelty and mistreatment of animals after representatives from animal control and the Rhode Island SPCA went to his property Wednesday and, they said, found 12 dead animals, including rabbits, chickens and ducks.

They animals had starved to death, according to Dr. E.J. Finocchio, head of the SPCA, who did a necropsy on the dead animals. Some of the rabbits, he said, were cannibalized by other rabbits who survived in their cages.

Burrillville animal control and the SPCA were familiar with Robert Morelle, 49, of 637 South Main St. in Pascoag, because they had come to his house at other times and had noticed unsanitary conditions, according to Kerry Courtemanche, Burrillville's deputy animal control officer. But there had been nothing bad enough to warrant taking action, Courtemanche said, so Morelle was counseled on the animals' proper care and how to maintain sanitary conditions.

Courtemanche said that she returned to the property about a week ago, because a neighbor reported Morelle's rabbits getting out of their cages and digging holes in the neighbor's yard. During that visit, Courtemanche said, the animals seemed OK, but "we were not happy with conditions."

That prompted her to return with the SPCA to check on the animals Wednesday. That, she said, is when they found six dead rabbits and six dead ducks and chickens.

Courtemanche said that Morelle had not fed or watered the animals for about four days.

"I didn't to expect to go there to find that in a period of a week 12 animals had died," Courtemanche said. "I'm glad we went back when we did. I am sad and angry."

She said Morelle turned over 31 rabbits, ducks, chickens and a rooster.

Morelle was charged with 11 counts of mistreatment of animals and 13 counts of unnecessary cruelty in Providence District Court.

Case Updates

A Burrillville man pleaded no contest to eight counts of mistreating animals and received a $4,000 fine that the director of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says is the biggest in the agency's history.

Robert Morelle, 49, of 637 South Main St., was facing 24 counts of cruelty and mistreatment of animals. He pleaded no contest Tuesday in District Court, Providence, after a plea-bargain agreement.

Judge Rafael Ovalles also gave Morelle 11 months of probation and ordered him to participate in a mental-health program. Morelle cannot own livestock while he is on probation.

Morelle was charged in November 2010 after representatives from Burrillville animal control and the RISPCA visited his property and found 11 dead animals " 6 rabbits, 2 chickens and 3 ducks. The animals had starved to death, according to Dr. E.J. Finocchio, the director of the RISPCA, who did a necropsy on the animals. Some of the dead rabbits had no entrails because they had been cannibalized by other rabbits who survived in their cages, he said.

Finocchio said that although Morelle claimed that he had neglected to feed the animals for four days their conditions conveyed a much longer time. "It takes a long time for animals to get in that condition," he said.

Morelle turned over 31 rabbits, ducks, chickens and a rooster. The majority of the animals he kept were for human consumption, according to animal control.

Finocchio said he hoped the ruling would send a message about the consequences of mistreating animals.

"Due to the circumstances surrounding this case it was my firm belief that if justice was not served, we might as well have conceded to the fact that it is open season for animal cruelty in the state of Rhode Island," he said.

Finocchio said he checked several decades of the agency's history and could not find such a large fine. When the $4,000 fine is paid it will go to the RISPCA's general fund, Finocchio said.
Source: - Jan 29, 2011
Update posted on Jan 29, 2011 - 3:51PM 


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