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Raymond woman disputes animal abuse charges

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Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 2:14 pm | Updated: 10:25 am, Fri May 3, 2013.

RAYMOND – Julie Sutherland, the Raymond woman who made headlines last year when she rescued more than 25 roosters, setting off a public dispute with her neighbor, has been summonsed on a civil charge of animal abuse.

Sutherland, who said she is innocent of the charge, was served earlier this month by Animal Control Officer Bobby Silcott for not providing medical attention to a cat Sutherland was fostering for the Harvest Hills Animal Shelter in Fryeburg. The cat eventually died.

Silcott, who is the backup ACO for Raymond, is handling the matter for Raymond’s full-time ACO Susan Fielder since he said Fielder and Sutherland have “had a falling-out and there is some conflict there.” He wouldn’t provide details on the conflict.

Sutherland had taken possession of a 6-month-old, gray-and-white cat named BabyGirl and three of BabyGirl’s kittens in August of last year after BabyGirl was rescued from a cat hoarder in Casco. Sutherland said BabyGirl had multiple health issues when she received the cat and that she purchased and administered more than $200 worth of medication. Sutherland also said she brought the animal to a veterinarian in Windham in October.

Sutherland said BabyGirl was riddled with worms that eventually infected the cat’s brain, and despite Sutherland’s best efforts, the cat died in January.

While not willing to discuss details of the case since it’s still in litigation, Silcott said the charge against Sutherland is valid and merits the civil case, which will be heard Tuesday, April 16, in Cumberland County District Court.

There has been no affidavit filed in the case. Silcott said he is planning to meet with the district attorney to draft one in coming weeks. If convicted, Sutherland could face a minimum fine of $500 or a maximum fine of $2,500.

Asked why Sutherland, who is known to rescue all sorts of animals at her hobby farm on Ledge Hill Road, would abuse an animal she rescued, Silcott said, “I have to agree with you there, it is a little confusing. But there was enough evidence presented to the D.A. to move forward with it.”

Silcott said the issue arose when Sutherland failed to return the fostered cats to Harvest Hills at the end of an eight-week care period. Sutherland’s role was to help socialize the animals, he said.

“She refused to return the animals, and it was their property,” Silcott said. “Julie’s role in this was to be a foster, and she was supposed to foster the mother and kittens until they were 8 weeks old and then they’d be returned. After the eight weeks, she refused to return them.”

Sutherland said she shouldn’t be held liable for BabyGirl’s condition since the cat was in bad health when she received her after last summer’s cat-hoarding incident, in which about 70 cats were rescued from a home in Casco and temporarily sheltered at the former Casco Memorial elementary school on Route 11. Sutherland visited the shelter, and according to Harvest Hills’ executive director, Joan McBurnie, Sutherland was the only person BabyGirl, which McBurnie described as wild, would allow near her.

“She was known, I guess, as the Cat Whisperer,” McBurnie said of Sutherland. “She was the only one who could get near this one cat and her kittens.”

Sutherland says she brought the cats home and did the best she could to take care of the ailing BabyGirl. She cleaned her thoroughly, brushed her, bathed her eyes with tea bags, and gave her medication for worms and ear mites. She also said she has detailed records of her efforts at providing medical attention for BabyGirl, which she intends to present in court proving she provided medical attention.

“I’ve got all the records, I’ve got charts of everything I did with her,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland also says BabyGirl isn’t the only cat to die from last summer’s cat-hoarding incident in Casco after being fostered or adopted.

“I’ve heard that BabyGirl was between the seventh to 11th cat that has lost its life because they did not get medical care prior to going into somebody’s home,” she said.

Sutherland is also accused of violating a foster agreement with the shelter by not returning BabyGirl’s kittens to Harvest Hills at the end of the fostering period. When she failed to return the cats, McBurnie called police to retrieve the cats from Sutherland’s home. Sutherland refused to hand over the kittens when visited by a Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office deputy in October, saying she didn’t want to separate BabyGirl and the kittens. Sutherland also says she was under no formal obligation to return the cats, which she had grown attached to.

“There was no contract with Harvest Hills. I was approved for foster, that was it,” she said.

McBurnie confirmed the lack of a contract with Sutherland requiring the return of the cats and says the shelter’s board of directors has since tightened the language in their fostering agreement.

“I’ve been here 11 years. We’ve had lots of people take cats and their babies and never had a problem having them bring them back to us. She broke the mold. Subsequently that made us have to change our contract,” McBurnie said. “Our foster agreement at that time wasn’t clear, but verbally she knew. She knew she was fostering those kittens to socialize them to give them the best chance and then they could be readopted through Harvest Hills.”

Sutherland said her motivation to keep the kittens and adopt them out on her own via Facebook was because she thought Harvest Hills would kill the cats if she turned them over. McBurnie says Sutherland’s suspicions were baseless.

“When I approached her to tell her she couldn’t give them away, she wasn’t very nice. She was belligerent to me, told me I would never get the kittens,” McBurnie said. “For some reason, she thought if Harvest Hills got the kittens back we would just euthanize them. I don’t know why she thought that. The whole purpose of the foster care was to bring those kittens around. If they didn’t come around, we work with Friends of Feral Felines.”

Silcott said he rarely summonses people involved in foster care for not providing medical attention. He also said potential adopters or foster families shouldn’t worry about being charged with animal abuse if they follow Maine law regarding care of animals.

“If you’re responsible for an animal, it’s incumbent upon you to provide necessary shelter, sustenance and medical attention. These things are all required,” Silcott said. “As far as people wanting to foster rescue animals, I don’t think it’s anything for them to worry about as long as the animal is treated according to the law.”

Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:

  • ladyjewelsmom posted at 9:35 am on Sat, Mar 16, 2013.

    ladyjewelsmom Posts: 39

    1. Animal Control Officer Bobby Silcott for not providing medical attention to a cat--All medical care was provided,,encluding vet visit and prescribed medication..

    2. Sutherland was fostering for the Harvest HillsAnimal Shelter in Fryeburg. --I was NOT fostering for HarvestHills Animal Shelter,,I was given the cats by ACO Susan Fielder,,there was NO contract with Harvest Hills,,I only filled out paperwork to see if I would get accepted as a foster and that was it..

    3. . The cat eventually died.--Babygirl did NOT die in my care,,,The Fryeburg Vet was bitten by Babygirl and they put Babygirl to sleep.......And then they cut off her head and sent it to Augusta for rabies test,,inwhich Babygirl did NOT have rabies,,,

    4. Silcott, who is the backup ACO for Raymond, Silcott is NOT ASST ACO or Backup for Raymond,,,only in emergency cases only will he be called in...

    5. She refused to return the animals, and it was their property,” Babygirl and her kittens were never the property of Harvest Hills as Raymond and Casco discontinued their contract with Harvest Hills and Babygirl was never part of their reports,,and ACO Susan Fielder GAVE them to me..

    6. Julie’s role in this was to be a foster, and she was supposed to foster the mother and kittens until they were 8 weeks old and then they’d be returned..No I was NOT fostering Babygirl or kittens for Harvest Hills,,I had NO contract with Harvest Hills and they had NO legal rights to either Babygirl or the kittens.

    7. Sutherland is also accused of violating a foster agreement with the shelter by not returning BabyGirl’s kittens to Harvest Hills at the end of the fostering period. Considering there was NO foster agreement nor contract,,this is a complete lie on the part of Harvest Hills Directer..

    8. McBurnie called police to retrieve the cats from Sutherland’s home. Sutherland refused to hand over the kittens when visited by a Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office deputy in October, It was not in October,,it was Sept 6-7 the officer was here,,as the contractors were here putting down our new bathroom and family room floors and witnessed everything,,and the officer had no paperwork,,didn't know what he was talking about,,no descriptions or anything,,made a statement to me after running my drivers lic and speaking with Silcott/town Manager,,We are dropping it and they'll get you another way.!!!!!!

    9. McBurnie confirmed the lack of a contract with Sutherland requiring the return of the cats.. Correct,,NO CONTRACT NO AGREEMENT,, Harvest Hills had no legal right to either Babygirl or kittens,,,

    10. ,” McBurnie said. “Our foster agreement at that time wasn’t clear, but verbally she knew. She knew she was fostering those kittens... I WAS NOT fostering,,as there was NO contract and NO signed agreement,,,and I was NOT spoken to by McBurnie verbally about fostering!!!

    11. she thought Harvest Hills would kill the cats..The one time I saw McBurnie physcially was at the shelter in Casco when she made a statement,,not to me,,but I over heard her,,that they would take Babygirls kittens and put them with another mother and put Babygirl down because she was to wild....

    12. When I approached her to tell her she couldn’t give them away, she wasn’t very nice. She was belligerent to me, McBurnie NEVER approached me or spoke to me personally,,

    13. “If you’re responsible for an animal, it’s incumbent upon you to provide necessary shelter, sustenance and medical attention. Babygirl and kittens had a huge condo all to themselves,,let alone were allowed out for hrs daily to exercise and play,,medical attention was given several times daily,,feed 3-4x's daily,,cleaned 2x's daily,,vet visit,,along with several different kinds of treatments and medication....

    14. Silcott said. “As far as people wanting to foster rescue animals, I don’t think it’s anything for them to worry about as long as the animal is treated according to the law.” I personally feel that anyone that is thinking or adopting through Harvest Hills Animal Shelter should really be aware of their dishonesty,,lies,,fraudilient reports,,scamming,,and you notice they mention mainly the kittens,,the reason behind that is because they wanted the money that kittens would bring into their place..

    15. The kittens have all been adopted out,,and NO they were NOT adopted out through Facebook,,facebook comment was just to show them and let people know that there would be contract required.

    As I said before I have records,,vet records,,along with reference letters,,pictures,,etc..Everything that could be done for Babygirl was done from the minute I brought her and the kittens home,,,but I fully believe that if she had received medical attention from the time she was removed from that horrible house the outcome would've been different,,but as it is,,Babygirl was very young,,first heat,,got pg,,not taken care of,,removed from horrible house,,tested for FHIV,,but never given rabies or distemper,,or treated for her other medical conditions,,which included hair mats,,earmites,,infected eyes,,worms,,infected jaw/tooth,,underweight,,no shots,,she said for a couple weeks in the shelter without medical attention or human contact except for feeding and cleaning,,none of her issues were addressed or cared for,,until I brought her home....I never knew she hadn't received rabies or distemper until I spoke with Asst. Jessica jackson,,that's when I found out months after I brought her home,,considering I never received any medical records or medication when I was given Babygirl and brought her home....The Town of Raymond and Harvest Hills Animal Shelter wants you to believe that they are above board,,inwhich they aren't,,,,several cats have lost their lives due to NO medical treatment while in the care of ACO's etc at the temp shelter,,Neither the town/harvest hills/nor aco's/vets administrated any medical care for any of the cats,,they got tested for FHIV but that was it,,no rabies,,no nothing!!!! An Asst. ACO did bring in her own medication and tried to help the sick cats,,but was stopped,,,,,let alone donations that were made and collected and gotten for the shelter went up missing,,