Brandon man denies animal cruelty charges

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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) We are learning more about allegations of animal cruelty at a farm in Rutland County after more than 100 animals were seized on Friday. Police say more animals lived in awful conditions and more will come off the farm soon. Our Ike Bendavid has new details from court.

William Hegarty

William Hegarty, 54, walked into court in Rutland on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to two counts of animal cruelty.

Brandon Police say they were tipped off about conditions at his farm and investigated last week. Court paperwork describes a lack of food and unsanitary conditions on the farm and inside the house.

"Aside from trying to get through the house and trying to trap the animals that were in the house-- the overpowering smell and to think that somebody might be residing in that-- that's uncomfortable," Brandon Police Chief Christopher Brickell said.

There were multiple types of birds on the farm, as well as horses, dogs, cats, goats and various other farm animals. The chief says dead animals could be seen around the property.

"Sometimes you see dead animals on a farm. But the fact that they were not removed or there were other animals that were nearby that had been affected, some animals were eating other animals, it just seemed like pure basic neglect of animals that passed," Brickell said.

Friday, 120 animals were taken from the property. The cats and dogs are heading to nearby shelters, but law enforcement says finding the right place for the farm animals hasn't been an easy task.

"This was a logistical challenge for sure," Brickell said.

In court on Tuesday, Hegarty voluntarily agreed to give up all the animals on his property.

"What you saw today is some willingness of the defense to cooperate with the state's investigation and that's all a very good thing," Rutland County State's Attorney Rose Kennedy said.

But we also found out this was not the first time animals have been seized from this property.

"It's not a good situation," defense lawyer Peter Langrock said. "We are trying to straighten it out."

Langrock says despite the conditions at the farm, Hegarty had the best intentions.

"These people are very good people. There is not an unkind thought that they ever had about the animals; they love the animals. They got overwhelmed," Langrock said.

There are still about 100 birds on the property-- chickens, ducks and other fowl. It's unclear when but police say they will also be taken away in the near future.