An animal welfare officer has described how she made the “gruesome discovery” of a dead dog chained to a tree at an abandoned North Side farm that was littered with the bones of starved animals.
When Margaret Baldino searched the farm, she said, she discovered 15 dead rabbits and the “feathers and bones” of multiple birds, which she believed to be chickens.
Farmer Marcel Archer, who rented the property, has denied four counts of animal cruelty and one charge of abandonment. He has claimed he hired someone to feed the animals.
Giving evidence on the first day of Archer’s trial in Summary Court on Monday, Ms. Baldino, who was an animal welfare officer with the Department of Agriculture at the time of the incident in August 2010, said she had searched the farm after an anonymous tip from a member of the public.
When she arrived at the property, she said, she was greeted by two dogs, whose condition she described as “emaciated.”
She said there was no sign of any food or water left out for the dogs.
Inside the yard she found the dead dog, on a “very short chain” tied to a tree.
Upon further inspection of the property, she said, she found an empty cage.
“I saw the remains of feathers and bones at the bottom of the cage,” she said.
She said several other cages and coops contained similar remains of pigeons and chickens, which she believed had died from lack of food and water.
She later discovered a covered area of rabbit hutches, with empty water bottles attached. A total of 14 rabbits were dead in the hutches. Five were still alive, though one later died.
Ms. Baldino said she had traced the property to Archer and tracked him down.
In an interview transcript read to the court, Archer acknowledged that he farmed the land and that the three dogs named Bella, Rover and Ming, were his. He later agreed to surrender the surviving dogs, Bella and Rover, to the Department of Agriculture, Ms. Baldino said.
He told the welfare officer in the interview that he had been overseas on and off and visited the farm less frequently since selling his goats earlier in the year.
He claimed to have hired a Jamaican man to feed the remaining animals, saying, when questioned, that this was an informal arrangement with no written record of contract or payment.
In her opening statement earlier on Monday, prosecutor Eleanor Fargi, said the Jamaican man, Austin Booth, would testify that he had left the island on June 10, nearly two months before the animals were found. She said Mr. Booth, in his police statement, said he told Archer he was leaving the island and would not be able to continue feeding the animals.
The case continued Monday afternoon.
Only the prosecution witnesses were scheduled to be called Monday, with the defense scheduled to bring its case at a later date.