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Influx of dogs from alleged neglect case puts pressure on Humane Society

  • The Monadnock Humane Society in Swanzey took in 52 Labradors in July after the dogs were seized from their owner in an alleged animal cruelty case. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • Violet and her puppies stay at the Monadnock Humane Society in Swanzey while their foster mom is on vacation. She and her puppies were among 52 seized in an animal cruelty case out of Marlborough. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • Violet and her puppies stay at the Monadnock Humane Society in Swanzey while their foster mom is on vacation. She and her puppies were among 52 seized in an animal cruelty case out of Marlborough. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce

  • Sampson, at the Monadnock Humane Society in Swanzey Saturday morning, awaits a foster family set to pick him up that afternoon. He was one of 52 dogs seized from a Marlborough man in July, who is facing animal cruelty charges. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • Sampson, at the Monadnock Humane Society in Swanzey Saturday morning, awaits a foster family set to pick him up that afternoon. He was one of 52 dogs seized from a Marlborough man in July, who is facing animal cruelty charges. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, September 10, 2018 4:38PM

For more than a month this summer the Monadnock Humane Society in Swanzey had to shut down most of its normal business to accept and care for more than 50 Labrador dogs from an alleged animal cruelty case.

On July 10, the Humane Society was asked to step in to care for 52 dogs and a cat seized from a Marlborough man, 58-year-old John Riggieri. Then on Aug. 21, the Humane Society was finally given permission by a Keene district court judge to begin the process of placing the dogs in foster care. The court permission released a bit of the pressure on the overcrowded animal shelter and allowed it to begin to process its regular business of intake and adoption – just in time, as the shelter is experiencing an uptick in animal surrenders.

“As soon as we’re able to clear a dog from a room, we’re putting another dog in it,” Monadnock Humane Society Executive Director Kathy Collinsworth said last week.

As of Saturday 32 of the dogs had been placed in foster homes, and the process of placing the remaining 22 continues.

“The process is labor-intensive,” Collinsworth said. Though the shelter has had plenty of people apply to be foster homes, after news of the influx of dogs hit the community, the shelter still has to do home inspections and interviews with each candidate.

“All of this is additional work on top of what we have to do day-to-day, so it’s been time-consuming,” Collinsworth said. “But the staff are super-eager to get these dogs into foster homes where they’ll be happier than in a shelter environment.”

Foster families declined offers to speak with the Ledger-Transcript due to fear of reprisals from Riggieri.

The cost of care

Because the dogs in this case are the state’s evidence, the shelter is being reimbursed for their care through the state, but there are impacts beyond the cost of keeping and caring for the dogs. During the month they were not allowed to place the dogs in foster homes, Collinsworth said, the shelter was unable to take in additional dogs, as the labs took up the entirety of the shelter’s 22 kennels. The shelter had to cancel several shipments of dogs from the south, where shelters are overloaded. Usually, the shelter would be taking in adoption fees from those dogs, in addition to those turned in from the community.

According to court documents, the Humane Society said it has spent $37,000 in caring for the dogs, including filling their daily needs and staff overtime. On top of that, the shelter has lost $10,000 in anticipated revenue, because it has not been able to move forward with its usual adoptions and collect those fees.

If Riggieri is found guilty, the Humane Society will begin the process of spaying and neutering the dogs and readying them for adoption. The state will pursue restitution for the care of the animals, Collinsworth said.

“But I can tell you from similar cases that have  hap pened this year, it’s very rare  that the defendant is able to pay,” Collinsworth said.

Collinsworth said other humane societies have had to deal with multiple large intakes this year, and it’s difficult because there isn’t a support system framework in place to help.

“If you think about the reality of something like the foster system for children, there’s a system. They have foster homes, and it’s supported by state and federal funding. That’s not our reality. But these are still living, breathing things that need care,” she said.

The Humane Society has a donor willing to match up to $26,500 in donations for the care of the Labradors. Donations can be made through the Monadnock Humane Society website, or by calling the shelter.

Marlborough man charged with animal cruelty facing trial 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 24 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.