Case Snapshot
Case ID: 18309
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Prosecutor(s): Jim Hughes

For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.

Tuesday, Jul 12, 2011

County: Franklin

Disposition: Alleged

Alleged: Karen L. Maple

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

A 48-year-old Bakersfield woman, accused of cruelty to animals and assault, has been freed by the court with the understanding that she was to be evaluated by a psychiatrist on Wednesday.

Karen Maple was arraigned at Franklin County District Court yesterday following her arrest on Tuesday in Bakersfield.

Maple has been charged with simple assault on a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and cruelty to animals and entered pleas of not guilty.

She was arrested and Vermont State Police removed 54 dogs from her Hennessey Road home after an investigation that began on July 12.

A search warrant was obtained and executed July 26 at approximately 10:30 a.m. at her residence.

Joanne Bourbeau, senior state director of Vermont and New Hampshire for the Humane Society of the United States said, "I still can't get the smell off of me."

Bourbeau explained this was a backyard breeder situation, complaints of which date back to 2007, but probable cause for legal was never had before now.

"It's a lot more common than a lot of people want to believe," she said of cases like this one.

According to Bourbeau, there were dogs suffering from malnutrition, dehydration, and untreated injuries at Maple's home. She added that "unsanitary" was not a strong enough word to describe the filth observed.

The dogs visible from the road were allegedly Maple's breeding stock and were in healthier condition.

Veterinarians assessed every dog, those suffering from neglect were removed. Fourteen of the 68 animals remained at the residence. The rest were transported using cargo vans and are being held at an undisclosed location, as they are evidence in the criminal case. Volunteers are taking care of them, Bourbeau said, and PetSmart charities donated supplies for the dogs.

Bourbeau added that the Humane Society would like to work with local prosecutors for civil forfeiture proceedings. Franklin County State's Attorney Jim Hughes confirmed via email yesterday that he would be working on the civil forfeiture on the dogs.

Trooper David Hurwitch wrote in a signed affidavit on July 26, that he was called by Eric Jesseman, Bakersfield's animal control officer, on July 12. Jesseman advised of a letter written from a friend of Maple's daughter to the town clerk regarding the alleged condition in which Maple kept the dogs she bred

The author of this letter, whose name was withheld in the affidavit, state that Maple allows healthy dogs used for breeding to run around but "there are dogs in the back of the property which are not allowed to run freely and therefore not visible, which are not cared for."

The young complainant's mother also expressed concern for Maple's daughter as well. "EM (Maple's daughter, whose full name is withheld) appears to be in distress fear and on guard for her mother's (at least) verbal attacks and outbursts," the woman advised, as written in the affidavit.

Trooper Jacob Metayer wrote in the affidavit : "The dogs are not safe with Karen, she is unpredictable and many times talked about killing all the dogs because it is too much to handle."

Maple was represented Tuesday by defense attorney Nick Hadden, who was appointed by the court. Hadden, appeared somber in court, while his client scanned the audience a couple of times and whispered to her sister and mother, who were both present.

In court discussions it was revealed that Maple had declined to speak with a mental health screener, who had been brought in based on things Maple allegedly said on July 27 (in a signed affidavit from Metayer). That statement from the trooper included, "On numerous occasions she stated repeatedly, 'Give me a gun and bullet' while describing how she wanted to take her own life."

Allegedly, numerous knives and at least one rifle were located at the residence.

At one point, after a discussion with Judge Keller, Hadden and Maple left the courtroom with Anthony Stevens, crisis team leader for the Behavioral Health Services Division of Northwestern Counseling & Support Services, a mental health provider located in St. Albans.

When they returned, Stevens took the stand. He said police on scene at Maple's home had requested mental health screening of the defendant based on threats and "bizarre assaultive" behavior displayed by Maple.

Stevens said while Maple did not actively endorse a desire to harm herself Tuesday, he indicated there were passive thoughts and inconsistencies between the information and Maple's presentation in court. He felt there were other issues; that he was not getting the while picture, and he would like to get a forensic psychiatrist involved.

Stevens told Hadden that it sounded like Maple was open to additional support, which he recommended as well.

Keller inquired about whether Maple could seek help in town without police involvement. No, Stevens, said, there were no psychiatrists at NCSS on Wednesday who specialized in forensic psychiatry.

Keller also acknowledged that what needed to be determined was not that Maple was insane, but that she may be depressed as a reaction to circumstances.

In the end, it was decided that Maple would be taken by her sister to Fletcher Allen emergency room to be examined by a psychiatrist to determine whether further steps should be taken. The sister was to report back to state she had taken the steps necessary.

As one of the conditions of release, Hughes asked that Maple not harass the young woman and her mother who had written letters regarding her animals.

"I think that's probably a good condition," Hadden agreed.

Case Updates

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.

Further concerns

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 home-school 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.
Source: - Aug 27, 2011
Update posted on Aug 27, 2011 - 2:22PM 


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