MACHIAS, Maine — A Topsfield woman who was scheduled to go on trial for animal cruelty today was injured when she fell Monday in Washington County Superior Court.
Margot Malpher, also known as Margaret Kathleen Nickerson-Malpher, was in the courtroom for jury selection and was representing herself in the trial, according to First Assistant District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh said Malpher was approaching the judge’s bench for a conference and did not realize there was a small step. She lost her balance and struck her head on the judge’s bench, causing a serious laceration. She was taken by ambulance to Down East Community Hospital for treatment and was released later in the day.
Cavanaugh said the trial has been postponed indefinitely.
The 20 dogs and one cat at the center of the case were removed from Malpher’s North Road home on Sept. 21, 2006, by authorities acting on a tip that the pets’ kennel was filthy.
A month later, Judge John Romei ruled that the animals had been “cruelly treated” and ordered them forfeited to the state. Malpher later appealed Romei’s decision and the matter is still before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
After the state seized the dogs, they were taken to the Bangor Humane Society. It reportedly took six volunteer professional groomers and others nearly three days to shear, bathe and treat the dogs. The groomers found that several of the dogs appeared to have skin problems related to severe matting, among other injuries.
After that seizure, Malpher filed a $100 million lawsuit against the governor and others claiming the state stole her dogs.
Most of the dogs are black miniature poodles, though there also were two Cavalier King Charles spaniel-poodle mixes, one Cavalier King Charles spaniel and one white standard poodle.
The lawsuit was filed against Gov. John Baldacci, state Department of Agriculture Animal Welfare Division Director Norma J. Worley, Attorney General Steven Rowe, 4th District Court Judge John Romei, Justice of the Peace Daniel Lacasse of Calais, Washington and Hancock District Attorney Michael Povich, First Assistant District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh of Calais, Maine Department of Agriculture Commissioner Seth Bradstreet III, state Department of Agriculture’s Animal Welfare Division veterinarian Christine Fraser and state animal welfare agent Christina Perry.