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Commonwealth v. Trefry

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Barnstable

June 15, 2016

Commonwealth
v.
Leanne Trefry

         Argued May 23, 2016.

          Complaint received and sworn to in the Orleans Division of the District Court Department on August 9, 2013.

         The case was heard by H. Gregory Williams, J.

          Roderick S. Oreste for the defendant.

          Elizabeth Anne Sweeney, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

         Present: Katzmann, Maldonado, & Blake, JJ.

          OPINION

          Katzmann, J.

          The defendant was convicted after a jury-waived trial in District Court of two counts of violating a 2012 statute, G. L. c. 140, § 174E( f ), which protects dogs from cruel conditions and inhumane chaining or tethering.[1] She now appeals, challenging [51 N.E.3d 503] the sufficiency of the evidence. In this case of first impression, which requires review of the reach of G. L. c. 140, § 174E, we conclude that subjecting a dog to cruel conditions suffices to establish a violation, and we reject the contention that outside confinement or confinement in general is an element required to convict under the statute. Accordingly, we affirm.

          Background.

          After the defendant's house in Brewster (property) had been condemned in August, 2012, and she had moved

Page 569

into a nursing home, her two Shetland sheepdogs, Zach and Kenji, remained on the property, where they had access to the inside of the condemned house and a fenced-in yard.

         Although the defendant herself was present on the property at least intermittently even after the house had been condemned, and she had occasional assistance from friends, the dogs were effectively left alone on the property, which was clogged with trash inside and out, emitted odors of trash (inside) and dog feces (outside), and contained numerous items that would pose a danger to the dogs' health and safety. Neighbors, animal control officers, and police officers observed the deplorable conditions to which Kenji and Zach were subjected.

         On July 25, 2013, an animal control officer who had been working with the defendant saw that Kenji was limping badly and appeared to be in pain. He was taken to a veterinarian, and both dogs were removed from the property three days later.

          Discussion.

          The defendant's primary contention on appeal is that G. L. c. 140, § 174E, inserted by St. 2012, c. 193, § 48, is inapplicable where there is no evidence that the dogs were confined outside.[2] We agree with the trial judge, however, that this argument ignores subsection ( f ) of the statute, which provides as follows:

" No person owning or keeping a dog shall subject the dog to cruel conditions or inhumane chaining or the tethering at any time. For the purposes of this subsection, 'cruel conditions and inhumane chaining or tethering' shall include, but not be limited to, the following conditions:
" (1) filthy and dirty confinement conditions including, but not limited to, exposure to excessive animal waste, garbage, dirty water, noxious odors, dangerous objects that could injure or kill a dog upon contact or other circumstances that could cause harm to a dog's physical or emotional health;
" (2) taunting, prodding, hitting, harassing, threatening or otherwise harming a tethered or ...

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