Harpswell woman whose koi fish were seized charged with illegal possession of veterinary drugs

Georgette Curran
Georgette Curran
Posted March 27, 2014, at 10:34 a.m.
Last modified March 27, 2014, at 4:34 p.m.

HARPSWELL, Maine — A Cundy’s Harbor woman whose illegal koi fish were seized by state officials on Monday has been charged with illegally possessing drugs typically used by veterinarians for surgery.

Georgette Curran, 66, was issued a summons just after 6 p.m. Wednesday for illegal possession of scheduled drugs, according to MDEA Cmdr. Scott Pelletier.

She argued Thursday that the drugs were seized illegally because they weren’t specified on the search warrant, but Pelletier said they were in plain sight of drug agents as they served the summons.

The charges came two days after a team of 10 game wardens, biologists and animal welfare agents arrived at Curran’s home and took 47 live and five dead koi, which were being kept in the freezer, as well as a flightless blue jay and a gray squirrel.

Curran, who kept her koi in a 900-gallon tank in her basement during the winter and a 6,000-gallon backyard pond in the summer, has argued since the spring of 2012 that a Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife classification of koi as an invasive species does not apply.

According to the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, koi — a subspecies of carp — and other invasive fish have the potential to take over Maine waterways and eliminate native fish species if released into a pond, lake or river.

But last month, the Maine Judicial Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that effectively allowed state wildlife officials to seize the fish.

State officials allegedly seized approximately 12 different drugs, ranging from steroids to ketamine, an anaesthetic used for surgery, and a medication used by veterinarians to euthanize animals.

“None of these drugs are prescribed to any animal or any person,” Pelletier told the Bangor Daily News on Thursday morning. “They’re drugs you would find in a laboratory situation. They were in bottles that you would draw liquid from with a syringe.”

Pelletier said Curran admitted that she was not a veterinarian.

On Thursday, Curran said she previously held a license to operate as an animal shelter, but that she didn’t renew the license. She said she previously used the drugs to euthanize dogs and cats brought to her shelter, but hasn’t done so for three or four years.

John Bott, spokesman for the state’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which licenses animal welfare programs, said Thursday that Curran held a license to run an animal shelter until 2007. Until December 2013, she was licensed for a breeding and boarding kennel, he said.

Curran reported to the department’s animal welfare program that she was closing the kennel and breeding facility in December 2013, according to Bott.

She said the anaesthetic was for cleaning animals’ teeth, but she didn’t know how to use it so had never done so.

“This is just a big witch hunt,” Curran said. “It’s a drug that most breeders have and a girlfriend brought the stuff over because she got it from her veterinarian. I happened to have it. It’s never been used. It’s a brand new vial and very outdated.”

The case has been referred to the Cumberland County district attorney’s office to determine whether the charges will be prosecuted as felonies.

In addition to the koi, wildlife agents on Monday seized a flightless blue jay and a gray squirrel. Curran was charged with importing freshwater fish or eggs without a permit.

Curran is scheduled to appear in West Bath District Court in June to face those charges. She is scheduled to appear on the drug charge on May 20.

 

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect charge against Georgette Curran. She was charged with importing freshwater fish or eggs without a permit, not with illegal possession of wildlife.

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