Trio accused of animal cruelty in Ferrisburgh; police seize 29 pets

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh residents Katherine Ferguson, 61, and Thomas Ferguson, 51, pled innocent to 12 counts of animal cruelty in Addison Superior Court’s Criminal Division on Monday, when also Bridport resident Roxanne Clark, 36, pled innocent on one count of animal cruelty in the same case.
They face a year in prison and a fine of $1,000, or both, on each charge, each of which includes depriving an animal “of adequate food, water, shelter, rest, sanitation, or necessary medical attention.”
Vermont State Police cited the trio into court following an Oct. 7 search of the trailer the Fergusons rent at 510 Burroughs Farm Road, and after interviews with all three at VSP’s New Haven barracks.
According to an affidavit filed by VSP Trooper Jacqueline June, the owner of the trailer, James Amblo, assisted in the VSP investigation. Amblo told VSP the Fergusons had moved into the property in September, when he said the Fergusons told him they had only one dog.
The affidavit said Amblo went with Trooper June to the property on Oct. 4, when she discovered a number of cages and crates, some containing multiple dogs, birds and ferrets, and one with a bearded dragon lizard. She wrote the crates all contained little or no food or water, and that what food and water there was available to the animals was tainted by feces and urine. Also several cats were roaming loose, according to June.
Many of the animals appeared to have medical conditions, such as missing hair, a cyst on one dog and missing feathers on the birds, June wrote, and the animals appeared to be left in the trailer without attention for long periods of time.
The affidavit also stated a witness saw Katherine Ferguson lift a dog by a metal chain around its neck and yell at it, and Amblo said on a day he worked around the home Ferguson was there “most of the day with the animals still kept in their enclosures.”
When June — along with personnel from the Burlington Emergency and Veterinary Specialists and the Addison County Humane Society, or Homeward Bound — returned on Oct. 7 they seized 11 dogs, including four puppies; nine birds; two cats; two ferrets; two guinea pigs; a hamster; and a bearded dragon, a lizard that typically ranges in size from 12 to 24 inches long.
Homeward Bound in Middlebury has been caring for most of the animals, with exceptions including the bearded dragon, which went to the Chittenden County Humane Society. Homeward Bound Executive Director Jessica Danyow said the animals are doing well now that they are in the shelter.
“They’re in good hands now, and they’re coming around,” Danyow said.
According to Trooper June’s affidavit when the animals arrived and were examined by a veterinarian, all of them “showed signs of neglect to include dental diseases, fleas, long nails, missing feathers and mammary masses.”
Danyow said the state’s attorney’s office has given Homeward Bound permission to seek temporary foster homes for the animals, but that their legal status remains up in the air.
“The animals have not been surrendered yet,” she said.
In the meantime, Danyow said caring for many of the animals seized is a financial burden for the nonprofit humane society.
“We’re certainly going to have to do some fundraising around it,” Danyow said. “Financial contributions to their care would be great.”
According to the court documents this is not the first time the Fergusons have had a brush with the law over keeping multiple animals in crowded and questionable conditions.
June wrote in the affidavit that based on information on collars and dog tags at the home she contacted officials in Franklin County, Penn. She learned that 20 dogs had been registered to the Fergusons there in 2014, and they had been found guilty of operating a kennel without a license, failing to vaccinate animals against rabies, and failure to license a dog over three months of age.
According to June she spoke to a Pennsylvania dog warden who told her “that at the time the Fergusons were keeping their dogs in small crates,” and “while their living conditions were not good she didn’t have enough based on the Pennsylvania laws to pursue the case since the dogs appeared to have been fed.”
Roxanne Clark also told VSP “she knew the Fergusons had ‘20-something’ animals removed from their home in New York in Johnsonville.” According to the affidavit Clark also said when the Fergusons lived in Mooers, N.Y., “that the Animal Control Officer was called often, and one of the issues with the dogs is that they were told that there were too many being kept in one crate.”
June also spoke with “Trooper Francisco of the New York State Police,” and he told her of an “animal welfare case involving the Fergusons a couple years back.” According to June’s affidavit Francisco described the Fergusons as “animal hoarders” because of “numerous dogs both inside and outside their residence on Angelville Road,” apparently referring to Mooers. Francisco said a dog warden described the dogs as “fairly healthy, but had poor living conditions.”
Katherine Ferguson told VSP that a veterinarian had given her dogs shots five years ago and had advised them not to treat a cyst on one dog. VSP confirmed with the vet he had not seen the animals in years.
Clark was charged with only one count because she owned only one animal, a dog, on the scene. According to the affidavit, Clark said her dog had “only been there for the day.”
But Amblo, who was concerned shortly after his tenants moved in, provided video evidence the dog was at the home on Sept. 4. And June found the dog at the home on Oct. 4 in the same crate it was found when she obtained a warrant and conducted a formal search on Oct. 7.
Clark also admitted to state police her dog was at the home on Sept. 26, and Clark acknowledged her dog “isn’t left there often but has been there multiple times.” June also wrote Clark tried to mislead her about whether Clark had attended an appointment with the Department for Children and Families.
Judge Helen Toor released both Fergusons and Clark with conditions that included that they not own, possess or care for any animals. The next action in their cases is scheduled to be Nov. 27 status conferences. 
   ONE OF TWO ferrets seized from a Ferrisburgh home is now housed at Homeward Bound in Middlebury pending the outcome of an animal cruelty case.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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