Dedham woman found guilty of animal cruelty

Posted March 15, 2011, at 11:48 a.m.
Last modified March 15, 2011, at 1:45 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Dedham woman has been found guilty of a civil charge of cruelty to animals.

Jeanmarie Ahern, 42, has been ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and prohibited from owning or possessing any horses or other related hoofed four-legged animals for two years, according to documents filed in Hancock County Superior Court.

Justice Kevin Cuddy, who presided over the two-day, non-jury civil trial, on March 10 ordered Ahern’s animals be sold or placed for adoption by the state Maine Animal Welfare program. He also set a deadline of March 10, 2013, for paying the $1,000 fine. Ahern had gone to trial to contest the seizure in an attempt to have her six horses and two cats returned to her at her Bald Mountain Road property.

In contesting the allegations, Ahern testified last week that she had made arrangements for a friend to look after her animals while she was out of state in late September and early October 2010, when the animals were seized by the state. She said that while she was away, her friend was trying to clean up the property, a water pump broke, and her house was ransacked in a burglary. She said that when she was home, there was a barn on an adjacent property that she could lead her animals to in case she felt they needed shelter.

In his March 10 decision, Cuddy wrote that Ahern did not do enough to provide shelter or care for her animals. For several months, Ahern failed to provide adequate shelter for her animals, despite encouragement from District Animal Humane Agent Christina Perry to do so, the judge wrote. Ahern lived by herself in 2009 and 2010 and held as many as four jobs in order to support herself, he added.

Ahern was summoned by Maine Animal Welfare on the civil cruelty to animals charge in January 2010 after one of two vinyl shelters she had on the property for the horses collapsed in a snowstorm. Ahern, who had been told by state officials before the structure’s collapse that she needed to provide better shelter for her horses, did not repair or replace the collapsed structure.  

Further, when Ahern was out of state attending the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky last fall, the horses were observed to be unattended and without water, shelter and accessible food, Cuddy wrote in the order. Witnesses at the trial testified that at other times, the animals were subjected to the same conditions and were known to escape into the road and onto neighboring properties, the judge wrote.

The animals were not subjected to immediate, life-threatening conditions when they were seized, according to Cuddy, but subsequent medical examinations revealed multiple medical problems among the cats and most horses, including inappropriate foot treatment. The cats, he added, were underweight and suffered from roundworms and fleas.

Evidence in the trial reflected “a pattern of cruel treatment and cruel abandonment of the horses and cats,” Cuddy wrote. “While the defendant may have the heart to care for horses and a sense of what should be done, she lacks either the financial ability or time to invest in caring for the horses or cats for which she has assumed responsibility.”

Attempts Monday night and Tuesday morning to contact Ahern’s defense attorney, Stephen C. Smith of Bangor, were unsuccessful. Efforts to contact Ahern also were unsuccessful.

William Entwisle, the prosecutor in the case, said Tuesday that he agreed with Cuddy’s decision to prohibit Ahern from owning horses or similar animals for two years. With her having  treated the seized animals cruelly, he said, it would not make any sense to permit Ahern to get new horses right away.

“I fully support that,” Entwisle said. The ban “is eminently appropriate under these facts.”

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