By MIRANDA ORSO
---- — MOOERS — Seventeen of 26 Walker hounds seized in an alleged abuse case still don’t have homes.
And Clifford Leafloor of Mooers Forks is due back in court Nov. 15 to face 19 charges of animal cruelty.
Nineteen undernourished adult dogs and seven puppies were seized from Leafloor’s Bush Road home Sept. 16 after Ellenburg-based State Police received a complaint from Animal Shelter owner and Mooers Dog Control Officer Kaleigh LaBombard.
An emaciated Walker hound had been brought to her by a person who found the dog wandering the streets.
The stray, who she called Lucky, might have died if not for that good Samaritan, she said.
“I took him to the vet ... He was extremely emaciated,” LaBombard said.
She posted a photo of the hound on the shelter’s Facebook page, along with details describing his journey around town, and soon support and well-wishes started pouring in.
LaBombard later received other calls about more dogs that were allegedly living in unacceptable conditions on the expansive property that spans about 300 acres.
Assistant District Attorney Douglas Collyer, who is charge of prosecuting the case, confirmed in an email that Leafloor was arrested the same day the dogs were seized.
“Obviously, in a case like this we’re concerned for the animals first and foremost and getting them adopted out to good homes,” Collyer said. “So, I moved for and conducted a hearing that would order him to pay for the dogs’ care while the case is pending.”
MANY AT HEARING
At the late September hearing, Mooers Town Justice David Kokes said that, unless Leafloor came up with $7,460 by 5 p.m. Oct. 3, the animals would remain in LaBombard’s care at the Mooers Animal Shelter.
She watched the clock and her phone intently that day, and the judge’s deadline came and went.
Now LaBombard is looking for good homes for the dogs.
The adult animals, she said, “are all doing good now, and everyone has gained at least 10 pounds.
“I can’t wait to see them go to forever homes.”
Sadly, one puppy died.
She posts updates on the dogs on the shelter’s Facebook page; readers, their hearts captured by the sad story, have offered help and support.
And a crowd of about 30 people, most supporting LaBombard and the abused animals, attended the hearing.
New York State Police Officer Joshua Leonard was the first witness Collyer called to testify.
The trooper told the court how he went to Leafloor’s residence on Sept. 13 and 14 to ask about the canine’s living conditions.
“At that time, (Leafloor) said some of the dogs had gotten out through a hole in a fence and had been gone between a week and 10 days,” Leonard said that night. “He said that was why those dogs that appeared malnourished or underfed.”
On at least one occasion, the officer said, Leafloor admitted he needed to take better care of the animals.
But Leonard said he saw no change in either the living conditions or the dogs’ health the next time he visited the place. When he returned to the property Sept. 16, he brought along an additional State Police officer, veterinarian Dr. Karen Firda, officials from the State Department of Environmental Conservation, an employee from Elmore SPCA and LaBombard.
Again, the officer assessed the dogs’ living conditions, finding multiple empty food and water dishes covered with green algae in pens soiled with urine and feces, he said.
Firda described for the court how she carefully checked out all of the dogs on the property using Body Condition Scoring to determine their health by looking at amount of muscle mass and fat over the canines’ skeletal structure.
In most cases, she found they had no fat or muscle on their ribs, spine or pelvis, with a lowest BCS score of 1, reflecting emaciation.
Only a few receive a rating of 2.
“You have to look at the animal and then use your hands to tell,” Firda said in court. “A normal dog is a 4 or 5,” she said.
Some other dogs at the property scored a three and were not seized.
LaBombard testified last, describing the state of the dogs in her care after they were brought to the shelter.
She said the animals, now being fed three times a day, were experiencing digestive problems.
Most of them also appeared to have worms, along with obvious signs of injury.
“Some of the dogs have lacerations on their legs and bodies as well as scars on their noses,” she said.
DUE BACK IN COURT
LaBombard had her hands with the canines, between bottle-feeding the puppies because their mother was unable to do so and managing the care of the 19 older dogs.
As of Saturday, all the puppies had been adopted, including a white puppy she nicknamed Princess and her sister Betsy.
She hopes the older canines will soon follow suit.
“They are all really great dogs. They are really friendly and loving and we want to see them go to good homes,” LaBombard said.
Learn more at: http://www.facebook.com/MooersAnimalShelterDco.
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