SKOWHEGAN, Maine — A Clinton couple pleaded not guilty to charges of animal cruelty in Skowhegan District Court on Wednesday morning.
Christina Laudieri, 44, and Paul Laudieri, 44, each are charged with one count of cruelty to animals after allegedly leaving a poodle in such filthy conditions that it had to be euthanized.
A passer-by discovered the abandoned dog in a gazebo on Pineland Drive in Skowhegan on Nov. 29, according to Skowhegan Police Chief Michael Emmons. The Laudieris were summoned on Dec. 11.
“Its eyes were shut with feces. It couldn’t walk. It couldn’t eat,” Emmons said on Dec. 27, describing the small dog’s condition.
The dog was taken to the police station. Officer Joshua King then brought it to the Somerset Humane Society in Skowhegan.
King was in the courtroom on Wednesday, along with four members of the Somerset Humane Society, including manager Hattie Spaulding.
“It’s all going to come out in court,” said Spaulding outside the courtroom. “We have pictures and everything.”
Judge Charles Laverdiere told the Laudieris that they could not possess any pets until the trial date. If convicted of the Class D misdemeanor, the couple could spend up to 364 days in jail and be fined a maximum of $2,000.
Somerset County Assistant District Attorney Francis Griffin said he will seek jail time for the Laudieris.
Christine Laudieri objected to the couple not being able to possess any pets as her children have cats in the house, she said.
“My two sons have their own cats. I don’t think it’s fair to take their pets away,” she said to Laverdiere.
Laverdiere didn’t waver and ordered the Laudieris to give their pets to friends or family until the trial date on March 27.
“This is a case where she admitted to abandoning the dog,” said Griffin. “This is one of the most serious cases the animal shelter has seen in recent history.”
Defense attorney Philip Mohlar, who was advising the couple in court, said the Laudieris’ Skowhegan home was being foreclosed on and their new place in Clinton didn’t allow dogs.
“This is not characterized as a horrific case of abuse,” said Mohlar.
“By the defendant’s own admission, they last saw veterinary care [for the dog] in 2005,” he said. “They admitted to not being able to take care of the animal.”
“You’re going to have to find a friend or relative to keep those [cats] with,” Laverdiere said to Christine Laudieri, adding that they will be subject to random searches to make sure there are no pets in their possession.
Spaulding said in December that the poodle was the most neglected animal she had seen that was still alive.
“[The fur] wasn’t just matted. It couldn’t even bend its arm because it was all fused together,” she said. “Its nails were sticking out away from its paws. It had been like that for a long time.
“She had a lot of tumors on her stomach,” she added. “We were able to determine that it was a female. It wasn’t even obvious what it was at first.”
Chief Emmons said in December that Somerset Humane Society veterinarian Michael Wing concluded that the dog “suffered from chronic neglect, flea infestation and paralysis.”
“There was nothing the vet could do,” said Spaulding, referring to the dog being euthanized. “This dog was already suffering enough. It was a shame.”