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Vt. Supreme Court considers Franklin County animal cruelty case - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. Supreme Court considers Franklin County animal cruelty case

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

A serial animal abuser from Franklin County claims his constitutional rights were violated when authorities seized his dogs.

It was a case of heart-breaking animal cruelty that left an impact on Franklin County.

There were eight dogs in all and many were just skin and bones. Some werre left outside in 30 below zero temperatures and all of them as one deputy described it, "living in filth."  The dogs ended up at the Franklin County Humane Society where they were nursed back to health.

Randall Sheperd, the Richford man allegedly behind the abuse, had been convicted two years earlier on similar charges and ordered by a judge not to have any more animals.  

But Sheperd is hoping to avoid these latest charges. Before the Vermont Supreme Court Tuesday, his lawyers argued that the animal control officer and police that seized the dogs didn't have a vet with them which is required by law. They say that violates the conditions of the search warrant and his Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

"At that point where they're in the home and just seizing any animal because it had a general warrant that allowed the search and seizure for any animal regardless of species regardless of condition, they're on the premises illegally at that point," said Sarah Star, Sheperd's lawyer.

Justice Beth Robinson was quick to point out another part of the same state statute. 

"That if the humane officer believes the animal's life is in jeopardy and immediate action is required to protect the animal's health or safety, you don't even need a warrant," said Justice Beth Robinson, Vermont Supreme Court.

Franklin County State's Attorney Jim Hughes says the constitutional protections against search and seizure were satisfied for the warrant.

"The animal control officer made the decision from her testimony at subsequent hearings because of the weather being 20 to 30 below zero range and because the family stopped cooperating that day, she had decided they needed to execute the warrant," said Jim Hughes, Franklin County State's Attorney.

A ruling in Sheperd's favor would allow his lawyers to suppress the evidence found in his home, a serious hit to the criminal case against him. He still faces probation violations. Another question that might never be resolved is who will pick up the over $50,000 bill the Franklin County Humane Society dealt with in caring for the dogs.

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WCAX Investigates: Cruelty cases leave animals in limbo

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