Authorities have yet to file charges against a Minden family after seizing dozens of dogs from an unheated barn on their property Wednesday night under a search warrant alleging animal cruelty.
State police, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and Fort Plain police seized approximately 50 dogs from the home of Paul Marriott, his wife, Diane, and their son, Joseph, at 7145 State Highway 5S, according to authorities, who described the dogs as frostbitten and worm-infested in some cases.
Montgomery County Undersheriff Jeff Smith said the three agencies were acting on complaints of alleged animal abuse at the address, which doubles as a dog-breeding operation.
“The complaints have been coming in for a few weeks, and it takes a while to investigate this properly,” he said.
Amsterdam attorney E. Robert Keach is representing the Marriott family.
“Those dogs were not maltreated. The state police and everyone is blasting these people off the planet. The bottom line is these animals were inside, they were fed, they all had hay, they all had separate living conditions. All the claims are sensationalized,” he said.
Authorities seized the animals from a white barn on the property in order to provide them with adequate shelter when outside temperatures dipped to single digits Wednesday night, Smith said. “The extreme cold was a contributing factor to getting them out of there and to different locations,” he said.
The search warrant described the barn as having “several missing windows.”
Smith said the state police have taken the lead on the investigation.
The search warrant, which was signed by Minden Town Justice Susan C. Buddles, said authorities were authorized and directed to search and seize animals under state Agriculture and Markets Law. It cited sections dealing with “overdriving, torturing and injuring animals,” “failure to provide proper sustenance” and confining animals in crowded or unhealthy conditions and not properly caring for them.
Keach said the Marriott family had been working with authorities to remedy conditions for the animals in the barn. “The police were out there various times and the family was fixing whatever issues that were being raised. Then the animal rights people got involved and dogs were seized,” he said.
State police painted a different picture. In a news release Friday, they said the dogs — puppies to adults, mostly pit bulls — were living in conditions unsuitable for them. Their water was frozen and many were lying in feces, police said, and one of the dogs was dead.
They called the effort “herculean” because of all of the shelters that needed to be contacted and because more than 50 dogs had to be checked by a veterinarian before being removed. Authorities set up portable heaters in the barn as they went about their work, removing the last animal well after dark Wednesday evening.
Police said the dogs suffered from ailments including frostbite, open sores and worm infestations. They said there was no word on when or if the dogs would be available for adoption.