Leadville man charged with animal cruelty toward his 16 dogs
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
LEADVILLE, Colorado ” According to Lake County Sheriff Ed Holte, Ron Wyatt of Leadville, Colo. was charged with 16 counts of animal cruelty after his dogs were discovered without adequate food, water or shelter in a gulch north of St. Kevin’s Gulch by Leadville resident Jeff Pallo.
According to a report by Deputy Amy Arnett, on Sunday, April 6, Pallo was riding a snowmobile near St. Kevin’s Gulch when a dog approached him. Pallo stated that he thought it was strange to find a dog so far out because nobody was around the area. He then explained that he followed a county road to the left and went onto what he thought may have been private property.
Sixteen dogs were being held on the property, said Pallo in the report: six dogs were in a pen and 10 were tethered to lines. According to Deputy Arnett, who later visited the property, the six dogs did not have any shelter from the elements or any food. There was a stream running through the pen that the dogs could access for water.
Pallo stated that the 10 dogs had no shelter, food or water and three looked to be badly malnourished. Deputy Arnett later noted that the dogs’ ribs, hips and backbones were visible through their fur. She also noted that there were blue barrels the dogs could have used for shelter, but that snow had prevented entrance to the barrels. Some of the dogs had been on the chains for so long that their collars had rubbed the hair off their necks, she explained.
Pallo also told Deputy Arnett that he had found three dead dogs next to the other dogs. The dead dogs were curled up in the fetal position, said Pallo. He thought they appeared to have frozen to death.
Because there were no tracks leading up to or away from the dogs, Pallo said he did not think anyone had been up to care for the dogs.
Arnett wrote that upon hearing Pallo’s description of the dogs, she contacted Lake County Search and Rescue in order to use their snowmobiles to ride in and check on the dogs.
Once there, Deputy Arnett tried to feed the dogs in order to make them friendly, she wrote. She explained that she gave each of them a handful of food, which they promptly vomited. She also noted that many of the dogs appeared thirsty, and that some were eating snow.
Deputy Arnett wrote that she walked up to a cabin on the property to see if anyone was there; she found no one. Given the fact that there was no evidence that anyone had been around to care for the dogs and that some appeared to be in bad condition, she decided to take them to a shelter and have them evaluated by a veterinarian, said the report. The dogs were removed by Search and Rescue in kennels on snowmobiles.
On April 8, Ron Wyatt came to see Deputy Arnett after he learned that the dogs were gone, said the report. The report further stated that he explained that the situation was supposed to be temporary but unfortunately turned permanent. He had been unable to find anyone to stay at the nearby cabin this year, he said, and the snow was so bad that he couldn’t keep up with the clearing of the dog houses.
Wyatt further stated that the dogs were fed and watered every day, usually by his stepson. He explained that the dogs were given their food and water in the same bowl so the food would soak up the water and the water wouldn’t freeze. He noted that the dogs in the lower pen had access to water all the time because of the creek running through the pen.
As for the dead dogs, Wyatt told Deputy Arnett that the dogs didn’t die on the property. They were 10-14 years old, he said, and he had taken them to the property in order to bury them in the spring instead of throwing them in the dump. He stated that the dogs were in bags.
When Deputy Arnett told him that there were no bags in or around the dead dogs, Wyatt stated that he had a puppy about nine months old that he turns loose on the property. He told Deputy Arnett that the puppy, who had chewed on the bags before, had probably taken the bags off the dead dogs.
According to the report, Wyatt admitted that three of the dogs were in poor condition, and called them “hard keepers.” He explained that hard keepers are hyperactive dogs and no matter how much an owner feeds them, they do not put on weight until they are over two to three years old. The dogs in question are under two years, he said.
Wyatt told Deputy Arnett that he was going to keep the dogs on the property until spring, when he could start working them. He told the deputy that he had not been exercising the dogs.
Deputy Arnett noted that Wyatt appeared to be very remorseful about the condition of the dogs. He told her he would do whatever was needed to make the situation right, said the report. He offered, for example, to have Dr. Linemeyer evaluate the dogs on a monthly basis, to ensure that the same situation wouldn’t happen again.
According to Deputy District Attorney Shasta Smith, there is a possibility of jail time for the charges; however, she thought that a first offense would likely result in probation. She explained that Wyatt can only receive misdemeanor charges. Because the dead dogs were frozen, a necropsy cannot be performed on their tissues to determine the cause of death; thus, felony charges cannot be considered in the matter.
Smith further stated a veterinarian found most of the dogs to be okay, though three were somewhat malnourished and dehydrated. She said she had asked the animal shelter not to release the three dogs that were in bad shape. She did not know what the shelter planned to do with the other dogs.
A woman who answered the phone at Nova Guides confirmed that Nova contracts with Ron Wyatt and Winterhawk Dogsled Adventures for dogsledding trips. However, when this reporter reached one of Nova Guides’ owners, he refused to comment on the matter.
Katie Redding is the reporter for The Leadville Chronicle. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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