Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Starving pit bulls seized, owner charged with animal cruelty

BELFAST (Jan 7): A man faces an animal cruelty charge this week after two of his three pit bulls were found emaciated and residing in an unheated camper off Swan Lake Avenue.

Jeremy Arpan, 30, was summoned with cruelty to animals after police went to the camper Dec. 26 to investigate complaints about the dogs being left inside for days, and sometimes weeks at a time.

"He wasn't feeding them, and he wasn't letting them out," said Belfast Police Chief Jeff Trafton, adding there was no heat in the trailer and the animals were urinating and defecating on the floor.

Trafton said in recent years the department had been dealing with Arpan over issues with the dogs.

In this instance, for several months, Arpan had apparently kept the dogs, two females and a male, inside a camper situated off Swan Lake Avenue.

Arpan had reportedly approached Belfast Animal Control Officer Steve Boguen recently about turning the dogs over to the City because, Trafton said, Arpan was having difficulty providing for them.

That, combined with the mounting calls concerning the welfare of the dogs, triggered police to visit the property, where officers met with Arpan and he brought the dogs outside for inspection.

Trafton described the first dog that Arpan brought out, a brown colored female, as a "walking bag of bones," noting that the fully-grown dog weighed 28 pounds. "I literally was surprised she was walking," said Trafton.

Trafton said she was the smallest of the trio, and that she was covered in scars that he surmised were caused by the dogs fighting over the limited food source.

The second female , said Trafton, also had scars, and had one lower canine tooth that stuck straight out and showed signs of infection. He said an examination at Belfast Veterinary Hospital concluded the dog's lower jaw had likely been broken and went untreated.

Police seized both of the females, but left a third dog, a male, in Arpan's care because he appeared healthy. Trafton said the situation was being monitored to ensure that animal is properly cared for in the future.

Trafton said because the male was the larger of the three, he was likely the victor in altercations over food.

After both of the females were examined at Belfast Veterinary Hospital, they were turned over to Dr. Justin Blake at Blake Veterinary Hospital for long-term care.

In a press release dated Jan. 4, Blake said the dogs were being tested, vaccinated, bathed and treated for parasites. The animals would remain under quarantine for 10 days, and would then be transferred to the hospital's Maine Coast Animal Rescue program for adoption.

Arpan reportedly agreed to sign the paperwork that would surrender the dogs to the City during the Dec. 26 visit by police, but Trafton said, "It's taken us almost two weeks to catch up with him."

Arpan contacted police Sunday, Jan. 3, and came to the police station to sign the surrender agreement and the summons for animal cruelty.

Trafton said the economy is perhaps causing others to skimp on feeding their pets, though he hopes he does not see another case get as severe as this one was. "You hate to think that anybody's in that position," he said.

In the four years that Trafton has served as police chief, he said this was the first time he had seen such an extreme case concerning animal welfare.

Those interested in learning more about adopting the dogs, or other animals housed with MCAR, may call 789-5700.

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