Tell SA Paul Finnerty: Refile felony animal cruelty charges against Carol Merchant
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On February 25, 2015, 62 dogs and 3 cats were removed from an alleged "home-based rescue" in Eden, Vermont, owned and operated by Carol Pape Merchant.
Multiple representatives from the Vermont State Police, the Humane Society of Chittenden County (HSCC), Central Vermont Humane Society (CVHS), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), North Country Animal League (NCAL) and Spring Hill Horse Rescue (SHHR), responded to the property after receiving a complaint from an informant who witnessed the conditions inside the home.
In every corner of the house, dogs were found stuffed in damaged or makeshift crates, often too small, sometimes shared and stacked on top of one another. They lived in their own waste; it caked their paws, matted their fur and coated the inside their crates. It burned their skin, irritated their eyes and nostrils and stained their fur.
Beyond the urine scalds and eye infections, initial veterinary assessments showed severe matting, rotten teeth, hair loss, fleas, overgrown nails, dehydration, starvation, and in the more severe cases, emaciation.
To say they lived in squalor and were medically neglected is to put it kindly. Some lived that way for years; some didn’t survive long after their rescue, the damage was too great.
In the following days, 13 more dogs and 1 duck, were removed from the home by Justice For Dogs. Another six dogs were reportedly given away by Merchant to her friends and neighbors. Five dogs and four cats, identified as Merchant's personal pets, were removed from the home at a later date.
In total, 94 animals were removed from the home, each in various stages of neglect and suffering a variety of untreated veterinary issues.
Following the raid, Merchant was charged with 8 felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals. Her tenant, Russell Goodell, was charged with 6 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals-deprived. He pleaded no contest and was ordered to pay $3,081 restitution to NCAL and CVHS. Merchant, however, was found incompetent to stand trial in October 2016.
Following a mid-April status conference, without an explanation or notice to the prosecution and other interested parties, the Honorable Judge Thomas Carlson dismissed the charges against Merchant without prejudice, meaning the charges can be refiled at the discretion of Lamoille County State’s Attorney Paul Finnerty.
We are asking Lamoille County State’s Attorney Paul Finnerty to refile the original eight felony charges against Merchant in a timely and strategic manner before the statute of limitations runs out in February of 2018.
We understand that Ms. Merchant has mental health challenges that need to be addressed. However, those issues should not prevent justice from being served for the physical and emotional abuse she inflicted upon the defenseless animals in her care.
The recidivism rate for this type of animal abuse is nearly 100 percent. Merchant has demonstrated, through her actions, her irresponsibility with animals.
To help reduce the chances of this happening again, we further ask that Ms. Merchant, if she is found to be of such diminished capacity that she cannot be held accountable for her crimes, be precluded from owning, possessing, caring for, residing and working with any animals, including therapy and emotional support animals, for a period of 25 years per a consent agreement, enforceable by the court.
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