SKOWHEGAN, Maine — A husband and wife who left their dog behind in Skowhegan when they moved to Clinton were each sentenced Monday to 15 days in jail for animal cruelty.
Paul and Christina Laudieri, both 44, pleaded guilty in Somerset County Superior Court to the Class D charge of cruelty to animals after their poodle was discovered last year in such bad shape that it had to be euthanized.
The Laudieris will start serving their sentences in Somerset County Jail in Madison on Friday and must each pay a $500 fine, plus $110 restitution to Somerset Humane Society in Skowhegan. They each faced up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000.
Justice John Nivison agreed with Somerset County Assistant District Attorney Brent Davis on the punishment. The Laudieris will each pay $25 per month until the fine is paid.
“It hurts. It really hurts. That poor dog,” Hattie Spaulding, manager of Somerset Humane Society, said in a telephone interview after the sentencing. “We’re going to see more and more of these cases, and it’s too bad the DA and the judge aren’t taking these cases seriously.
She said her staff was also upset to hear about the sentence.
“That dog did them justice for years,” Spaulding said. “All we ask is for people to turn around and do their animal justice when it’s time to.”
A passer-by discovered the abandoned dog in a gazebo on Pineland Drive in Skowhegan last year on Nov. 29, according to then-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.
Officer King “was very upset about the condition of the dog,” said Spaulding in December. “This is why he did great investigation work and pushed and pushed to find the owner of this dog.”
Spaulding said previously 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.”
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.”
The Laudieris pleaded not guilty in Skowhegan District Court on Feb. 20. On that day, 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 the neighboring town of Clinton didn’t allow dogs.
“This is not characterized as a horrific case of abuse,” said Mohlar.
Assistant District Attorney Francis Griffin disagreed.
“By the defendants’ 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.”
Emons said last year that the Laudieris offered an explanation for their action.
“They felt that if they left the dog there, someone would find it and give it a chance,” Emmons said.
Spaulding said on Monday that the sentence was too lenient and could lead to more animal abuse cases.
“This just means that people can do this more and get out of it on 15 days and a $500 fine,” she said.
Spaulding is already seeing an increase in aggressive animal cases, she said.
“I think that they’re being raised by bad people. It’s happening more and more,” Spaulding said.