Paul, Diane and Joseph Marriott, owners of a pitbull breeding facility in the town of Minden, have been arrested on 52 counts of animal cruelty.
The arrests came Friday, more than three weeks after state police Investigator Thomas Gibney followed a tip to a barn owned by the family at 7145 Route 5S on Jan. 2. When he saw the squalid conditions and sheer number of animals living in the cold building, he got a warrant to remove the 51 dogs, he said.
“It was so cold at the time,” he said Monday, “we thought the dogs would die if we didn’t get them out.”
All the animals were seized in just two days, farmed out to various shelters and homes, but the investigation took much longer.
“We had essentially 51 victims,” he said. “We had to assign numbers, collect medical information, take pictures and type up a complaint for each one.”
Also, police found a dead dog on the scene and ordered an autopsy, which takes time to line up in the veterinary world.
The process took over three weeks to complete. Now the Marriott family is facing 52 misdemeanor animal cruelty charges in violation of Section 353 of the state Agriculture and Markets Law.
The Marriotts’ lawyer, civil rights attorney Elmer Robert “Bob” Keach III of Amsterdam, did not return calls for comment Monday, but said in a past Gazette interview: “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.”
State police said they found the dogs caked in their own feces in the cold, many with open sores and internal parasites.
Joseph Marriott also faces charges of felony possession of marijuana and aggravated harassment. Gibney said the harassment charge is for a threat Joseph allegedly made via Facebook to a local animal shelter employee.
The shelter employee was evidently buying a puppy from Joseph Marriott when she saw the conditions of the barn and decided to report him to the police. Gibney took her complaint, which he said led directly to the arrests.
So far, all the animals seized are alive and relatively well.
“That was our No. 1 priority,” he said, adding that many are still recovering from frostbitten ears and extremities. One female found with a shattered front leg might need an amputation, but other than that, the 51 dogs are recovering.
The Marriott family was arranged in Minden Town Court and released on a total of $9,000 bail. They will appear in court Feb. 25. The case could go to trial but Gibney said the Marriotts are expected to plead down the charges by forfeiting their dogs.