Two Maine women are questioning why the Animal Welfare Program, a state agency within the Maine Department of Agriculture, did not quickly act when they brought up concerns about a facility run by a Somerville woman.
The Animal Welfare Program stated that they didn’t have enough evidence to search the alleged “puppy mill” until a month ago.
Fern Clark was charged with five counts of aggravated animal cruelty on January 30. Her home was raided by animal welfare officials after the arrest of a Massachusetts woman in New Hampshire.
Amy Moolic of Dracut, Mass., was arrested after she was discovered to have 22 dogs — two of them dead — in her vehicle. Moolic told police she had saved 10 of the animals from a puppy mill in Somerville owned by Clark.
Jessica Andrews and Linda Moody both filed complaints with the state in 2005 when they went inside of Clark’s home and saw the horrible conditions that the animals were in.
Animal Welfare Program Director Norma Worley said even though there were complaints against Clark, the agency lacked physical proof of neglect and abuse. In addition, since Clark did not hold a state license at the time of the complaints, state officials were legally barred from entering the home.
“We just can’t go around banging down people’s doors,” Worley said. “We can’t use hearsay, and that’s about 90 percent of what we were getting.”
Andrews, who went to Clark’s to potentially buy a puppy, said, “My mother and I arrived at her house and were only allowed in the basement, where we saw dog feces and heard a man upstairs hollering loudly at the dogs to stop barking.”
Even though there have been at least seven formal complaints against Clark since 2002, Worley added, “We need people who have been inside (Clark’s house) to talk to us. Because these people didn’t go upstairs and physically see it, we couldn’t do anything.”
She stated, “We haven’t ignored any cases, but we need evidence these things are happening. We cannot break down someone’s door.”
But with Moolic’s arrest, this gave state officials the proof that there was a recent transaction between Moolic and Clark regarding the animals.
In her defense, Clark stated to the judge, “I never hurt my dogs. I never meant to hurt my dogs, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar.”
Source: Portland Press Herald