LINCOLN, Maine — An Enfield man is serving a 14-day sentence, will pay a $500 fine and is banned for life from owning more than one dog at a time to resolve a March animal cruelty case in which 14 Labrador mix dogs died, officials said Thursday.
Chrissy Perry, a district humane agent for the Maine Animal Welfare Program, called the case of Jonathan Peare one of the worst she has seen in her six years with the state agency “in terms of the conditions the animals were living in.”
The 28-year-old Peare owned 25 of 27 dogs at a trailer on Darlings Estate Road, where he still resides, and on Warsaw Circle in Lincoln, in which the animals were found in mid-March to be living in conditions so filthy that 14 of them had to be euthanized, officials said.
Animal control workers said the 12 dogs found in Lincoln on March 20 were in almost identical shape to the 15 dogs discovered in Enfield on March 16. Eight of the Enfield dogs were found dead, while the rest stank horribly of feces and urine, were very underfed and were surrounded by filthy conditions, according to officials.
Peare apparently owned 10 of the 12 dogs found in Lincoln and all of the dogs found in Enfield. The rest reportedly were owned by a relative, state officials said. Peare apparently kept the Warsaw Circle dogs with his girlfriend and possibly with her parents.
Three people appeared to be living in the Lincoln trailer with the dogs and filth at the time of the arrest, state officials said.
One Enfield dog was so weak from malnutrition that she could barely get to her feet, and there were signs that the dogs there had eaten canine corpses to survive. No dead dogs were found in Lincoln, but six had to be euthanized, officials said.
Families and adoptive services took in the dogs that survived after they were examined by Dr. Joseph Nesin, a veterinarian at the Chester Animal Hospital. They were temporarily housed at the Penobscot Valley Humane Society shelter in Lincoln.
In exchange for Peare’s guilty plea, Lincoln District Court Judge Kevin Stitham dismissed all but one of eight counts of animal cruelty charged to Peare.
In addition to the fine, Stitham sentenced Peare on Sept. 7 to 90 days in jail with all but 14 suspended and ordered that the one dog Peare be allowed to own must be spayed or neutered, court officials said.
Peare must notify court officials within 24 hours of any change of address and cannot live with anyone else who owns pets, court officials said.
Stitham made Peare agree that animal control officers, police and state animal welfare officials could subject Peare’s home to random searches in response to complaints or to ensure the safety of his dog.
Peare must provide his local animal control officer with an annual veterinary report on the dog he is allowed to have, court officials said.
Peare could have been fined as much as $2,000 and served a one-year prison sentence on each of the eight animal cruelty counts, state officials have said.
If Peare violates his sentencing conditions, he could face a contempt of court or similar charge, Perry said.
“I think it was an appropriate sentence, and I am very pleased with the resolution of this case,” Perry said. “The conditions that were imposed on him, and the jail sentence, were fair. It’s very rare that you see someone go to jail on an animal cruelty case.”
Perry could recall only a half-dozen such cases in her six years with animal welfare.
Peare began serving his sentence on Sept. 8 at Penobscot County Jail in Bangor, court officials said. Local animal control officers, police and Perry will monitor Peare when he finishes his sentence, Perry said.
Perry said she has seen animal abuse cases where people suffered from psychological issues — individuals who hoarded animals the way others collect items — but didn’t think Peare fell into that category. Nor did she think he was being intentionally cruel to the dogs.
“In this case, he felt he was overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do with the animals,” Perry said.
People often feel ashamed that they can no longer care for their pets or inadvertently take on more than they can handle. In any case, animal welfare program officials would rather help people relocate pets and help correct unsanitary situations than resort to fines and arrests, Perry said.
“They can contact our department, and we can always help with the placement of animals even if we don’t have an active case on the person,” Perry said. “If someone says, ‘I have 15 dogs and I need to get rid of 10,’ we can help them do that.”
Anyone who has or knows of animals living in cruel, unsanitary or obviously overcrowded conditions is asked to contact their local animal control officer or the welfare program at 287-3846; website www.maine.gov/agriculture/AW; or toll-free number at 877-269-9200.