MACHIAS, Maine — Margo Malpher of Topsfield, also known as Margaret Kathleen Nickerson-Malpher, has been convicted of animal cruelty involving 20 dogs and one cat and now faces a possible $100,000 restitution order.
That’s the amount the state paid to care for the seized animals over many months while Malpher repeatedly appealed her case, which originated in September 2006.
While awaiting sentencing, Malpher, who still owns at least six dogs, is being monitored by the state’s Animal Welfare Division.
Malpher will be sentenced during the first week in November at Washington County Superior Court, according to First Assistant District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh.
She was found guilty earlier this month after a two-day trial during which Malpher represented herself.
Cavanaugh said Monday that an inspection was conducted at Malpher’s kennel immediately after the verdict. All of the dogs and a cat were seized four years ago when Malpher first was charged, but she since has acquired at least six other dogs, he said.
Humane Agent Christina Perry recently visited Malpher’s home and inspected the kennel, Cavanaugh said. He said Perry found conditions to be unclean and recommended some corrective actions, but no new charges have been filed.
While Malpher was convicted because of the unclean conditions found in 2006, Cavanaugh said the conditions Perry discovered recently were not as bad. He said Perry would continue to monitor Malpher’s kennel conditions pending sentencing.
All of the dogs seized four years ago were forfeited after a “protracted legal battle,” Cavanaugh said. They included black miniature poodles, two Cavalier King Charles spaniel-poodle mixed breeds, one Cavalier King Charles spaniel and one white standard poodle.
It reportedly took five groomers at the Bangor Humane Society two days to clean the dogs.
The groomers described the dogs’ hair as being so matted that their coats impeded their ability to move and their ability to relieve themselves, according to court records.
After the animals were seized, however, Malpher filed a $100 million lawsuit against the governor of Maine and a number of other state and local officials, claiming the state stole her dogs. The case wound its way through the court system and appeals process until the Maine Supreme Judicial Court determined in February 2008 that the state had the right to seize the animals.
Until that ruling, however, the state had been caring for the dogs and cat, including providing shelter and medical attention. The animals have all since been adopted.
Cavanaugh said he will be asking for reimbursement of those expenses at Malpher’s sentencing and the bill could total between $90,000 and $100,000. Cavanaugh also is expected to ask that restrictions, and possibly a complete ban, of pet ownership be part of the sentencing.