David Sheen, 71, of Peru, Vt., pleaded not guilty Monday in Vermont Superior Court to a felony count of aggravated cruelty to animals, five misdemeanor counts of cruelty animals through deprivation of food, water, or shelter, and four counts of cruelty to animals by restraint. He was released on conditions, one being he must not possess any animals after noon on Feb. 7.
According to an affidavit by Vermont State Police Trooper Michael Sorensen, on Dec. 18 Kenneth Colombraro, an investigator with the Bennington County Humane Society, had investigated a complaint of animal cruelty made by Luanna Swett against Sheen. According to Swett, a dog belonging to Sheen that recently had puppies had not been given adequate shelter.
Colombraro and another investigator followed up on the complaint on Dec. 16 and substantiated it, finding the dog's shelter was too large and drafty to protect the animal from the elements. It had been below freezing temperatures that week.
On Dec. 23, Sorensen cited Sheen for a misdemeanor cruelty to animals charge.
A little over a week later, Colombraro followed up on the complaint and found four of Sheen's dogs had chains shorter than what state law allows. The chains were short by anywhere from one to four feet. On Jan. 10, Sorensen went with Colombraro and veterinarians to Sheen's property, where five dogs were found to not have adequate bedding.
The affidavit included a written statement by Swett, which she gave on Jan. 3. She wrote that in early December she heard about Sheen having to surrender 30 dogs to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She went to Sheen's property and counted 17 dogs, which to her appeared thin and emaciated, lacking hay in their shelters and either not having water, or their water was frozen.
She wrote that she began feeding the dogs and giving them blankets, but over the next few weeks witnessed Sheen give them bird food. She said there was also a large amount of feces left in their pens. According to Swett, there was a pregnant dog which Sheen did not get medical help for after it was attacked by two other dogs. It also gave birth during this period.
Swett claimed that Sheen told her not to feed some of the dogs because they would be hunting bobcats the following week. Swett believed this sort of treatment of animals had been going on for a long time.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.