DA Brown prosecuting dog abuse case

DA dispels rumors to contrary

One of the French mastiffs rescued from a home in Stratford on April 6. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan)

STRATFORD — Fulton County District Attorney Chad Brown said his office is prosecuting the charges involved with the abandonment of 22 dogs discovered by state police April 5, despite claims to the contrary circulating through social media.

In an usual step, Brown issued a news release this week to dispel rumors that his office was not prosecuting Bentley Valdez, who was arrested April 6 by New York state police and charged with 22 misdemeanor counts of of failure to provide care to 22 French mastiffs, 9 of which were found dead at 404 County Highway 104 and another that has since died. The remaining dogs were found in various states of starvation and are now being sheltered and fed at the James A. Brennan Memorial Humane Society, 437 Nine Mile Tree Road. State Police Captain Michael Tietz described the scene at 404 County Highway 104 as the worst case of animal cruelty he’s seen. Tietz said it was apparent the dogs had begun to feed on the corpse of one of the dead dogs.

In his news release Brown said the claim that “the District Attorney’s office is returning the remaining dogs back to the environment they came from” is false.

“I won’t speculate regarding the agenda or source of this false information, but I can assure all who are truly concerned with these animals that this office [as it always has] will fully prosecute the case presented within the confines of the law, which includes opposition to any return of the dogs seized,” Brown stated in his news release.

The well-publicized dog abandonment case has spurred some action by Internet activists, some of whom have questioned why Valdez was not charged under “Busters Law”, which makes certain instances of animal cruelty a felony.

According to New York state animal law, which is Agriculture and Markets Law 353, `“a person is guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals when, with no justifiable purpose, he or she intentionally kills or intentionally causes serious physical injury to a companion animal with aggravated cruelty. For purposes of this section, “aggravated cruelty” shall mean conduct which: 1. is intended to cause extreme physical pain; or 2. is done or carried out in an especially depraved or sadistic manner.”

Animal abandonment, however, is covered under Agriculture and Markets Law 355, and does not include a felony provision.

Brown said he will not speculate about whether there could be any additional charges to Valdez or anyone else connected with the case.

“The state police filed the charges based on the evidence they had at that time. The investigation is still ongoing and any other charges that might be deemed appropriate will be filed at that time,” Brown said. “We have been getting a lot of phone calls, messages of various sorts and I can’t call every person back, and I can’t talk to them about the case, but what I can say is that — point blank — we are going forward with the case. It’s been filed. We always prosecute the charges that are presented to us, and as far as returning animals — I don’t know why anyone would say we are doing that — that’s not something we are looking to do.”

At the time the dogs were discovered, state police officials and James A. Brennan Memorial Humane Society officials speculated that in some cases of animal abandonment, the animals are ultimately returned to owners because the law views them as property.

Brown said the next scheduled court hearing in the case is April 18 at 6 p.m. in Stratford Town Court. He said there is a chance that court date will be rescheduled and if it is, his office will notify the public.