Bentley Valdez turned himself into state police after officers contacted him about the animal abandonment, which took place at 404 County Highway 104. Valdez was charged with 22 counts of failure to provide sustenance to his dogs, all class A misdemeanors. He was arraigned in the town of Stratford Court Thursday night and released on bail.
State Police Captain Michael Tietz said what took place at 404 County Highway 104 was the worst case of animal neglect he’s ever seen. He said troopers were called by someone who was taking photographs of the property for what he thinks was a foreclosure proceeding. He said the photographer saw dead dogs in plain view on the property. When state police arrived on the scene it was apparent there was no food or water for the animals, and nine of them were dead.
“We’ve run across animal cruelty cases, failure to provide sustenance cases, not everyday, but you see them. This was, by far, the worst case I have seen. These dogs, some of them were inside the residence, which I believe was uninhabitable by a human — the dogs pretty much had the run of it,” said Tietz. “There was a deceased dog in there that it looks like the other dogs had been eating on at some point.”
He said since some of the dogs had been locked up in the house, they had used it to defecate. “There was just dog feces, from top to bottom, every room. The stench was pretty bad,” he said. “There were dogs that were dead in crates outside and inside. Who knows if these dogs died of lack of water or lack of food, exposure. It’s possible they were out there in the winter when it was really cold and they died. We can’t really say at this point, but it’s apparent from the evidence that someone knew the dogs were dead, because they were put in bags and just left there. It was bad.”
He said the dogs were all docile, but it appeared they hadn’t had a lot of interaction with humans.
Tietz said state police believe the dogs, all of which are French mastiffs, may have been imported from Europe and could be worth $1,000 to $5,000 per dog. He said state police still aren’t sure what Valdez’s purpose was in owning the dogs.
After the dogs were discovered they were transported to the James A. Brennan Memorial Humane Society located at 437 Nine Mile Tree Road, which contracts with Stratford, as well as other municipalities, to take in stray animals. Christie Rust, the president of the organization, said one of the dogs was in very bad shape and had to be transported to an animal hospital. She said the other dogs are being fed several small meals a day in an effort to build them back up to health.
“These are very expensive dogs,” She said. “This is a very exclusive breed…one of them is being hospitalized right now, he’s in very poor condition. They all have ear mites. That’s not uncommon in neglect cases. Some of them have a little more than we are used to seeing, but we’ve seen worse, unfortunately.”
Rust said her organization will have to wait to see what happens with the legal proceedings before they know if the dogs can be given up for adoption. She said it’s possible, however, that the dogs might return to Valdez at some point.
Tietz said it remains to be seen what will happen with the animals.
“Obviously, we don’t think they should be returned to him, but that’s really irrelevant. It’s going to come down to him, the owner either intentionally relinquishing ownership of the dogs or a judge ordering him to relinquish ownership, or he gets the dogs back. Those are the three possibilities,” he said.
Rust said since the story of the animal abandonment broke, her organization has been inundated with offers of donations and help from throughout the Capital Region.
“We’re accepting donations right now, monetary of course, paper towels, bleach, canned dog food, liquid laundry detergent. There is a link on our website, www.pawsforyou.org, to our PayPal account, if people want to donate that way,” she said. “We’ve had businesses reaching out, bringing us truck loads of food. We’ve had children coming with their allowance money. We’ve had senior citizens buying bags of dog food to help out. It’s definitely heartwarming and it really is important for us right now to have that community support.”