ST. ALBANS — A St. Albans City man on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to seven counts of animal cruelty.
Eric S. Curtis, 36, appeared before Judge Michael A. Maley at Vermont District Court yesterday after he was arrested Tuesday for allegedly leaving six dogs unattended and neglected in a North Main Street apartment.
Curtis was released on conditions that he not contact or harass officials and staff members of the Franklin County Humane Society — where the dogs are being cared for — or set foot on the humane society’s shelter premises. He also isn’t allowed to own or posses pets. Represented by defense attorney William Cristman, Curtis accepted the court-imposed conditions.
Police arrested Curtis following complaints of abandoned animals received from Curtis’s neighbors. Upon investigation, police found that Curtis was no longer living in the apartment.
According to the police affidavit, officers responded to a call from a neighbor on Saturday, July 13 about barking dogs. The officer on route received a call from the humane society advising the neighbor had already brought two of the dogs to the society’s animal shelter in the city.
The neighbor told police she had permission from Curtis to take two dogs of her choosing. Upon arrival, the neighbor reported finding a strong odor of dog urine and feces, feces all over the apartment and observed the two adult dogs chained to a coffee table, according to the affidavit. The neighbor told police she found eight dogs total when she first entered the apartment. When she returned from the humane society, however, she said that two of the dogs were missing.
According to St. Albans City Police Chief Gary Taylor, the two missing dogs had not been accounted for as recently as Wednesday morning.
Upon arrival, the police officers observed that the four remaining dogs were “extremely emaciated,” with bones pressing against the skin. The affidavit stated that at least two of the dogs had open sores on their heads.
The dogs also had no food or clean water, said police. The neighbor told police she observed one dog drinking from a dirty fish tank.
Police said they were overwhelmed by the smell of dog urine and feces. After obtaining the warrant to search the apartment, the officers stated they had to wear protective suits.
Police also found a dead Guinea pig in a cage in an upstairs bedroom, according to the affidavit.
Taylor said the city health officer, with the help of the police department, investigated Curtis’s apartment two weeks ago. At that time, Taylor said officers found the dogs to be in decent condition with drinking water and food available.
Since the initial investigation, however, Taylor said the situation had gotten much worse, based upon the officers’ recent discovery in Curtis’s apartment.