KINGSBURY — The owner of a Route 4 tile and stone business faces 42 criminal charges related to the neglect of dozens of animals on his property, 35 of which died from starvation and lack of water last month, police said.
Jeffrey T. Owens Sr., 38, of Moreau, was charged with five felony counts of tampering with physical evidence and 37 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty after an investigation by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Police said five cows, a goat, two alpaca, seven chickens, 10 turkeys and numerous rabbits were found dead. They were in and around a barn at the back of the 4202 Route 4 property, with buildings for the stone business at the front of the property.
Sheriff’s Investigator Paul Trottier said the animals did not have proper food and water and were in feces-covered stalls, necropsies finding some had taken to eating feces or parts of the barn in which they were held because they hadn’t had food for extended periods of time.
“There was a complete lack of food and water,” Trottier said.
Owens told police he fed them every two to three days, and had been at the barn two days earlier, he added.
At one point, Owens tried to cover dead cows with sawdust and garbage so that police would not find, them, Trottier said. That led to the tampering with physical evidence counts.
The animals were found dead and without sufficient food and water in a field behind his business, Quality Stone Works, on Feb. 13, police said. The felony charges allege he tried to conceal five of the dead cows during the police investigation.
His lawyer, Tucker Stanclift, said Owens denies he did anything improper with his livestock.
“We are in the preliminary stages of trying to decipher what it is they claim he did wrong,” he said.
Owens told a reporter that day at his property that the animals died of natural causes.
“A disease went through the barn,” he said.
Officials said his family had planned to open a “petting zoo” on the property.
Police were called to the property because someone spotted a donkey running loose. A local repossession company that had gone to the home that day to repossess a piece of equipment, and noticed no tracks in the snow to the barn when the most recent snow was six days earlier.
Two donkeys survived, but Owens was accused of neglecting them as well.
Owens was arraigned and released pending prosecution in Kingsbury Town Court. The felony charges are punishable by up to 4 years in state prison each.
Trottier and sheriff’s deputies Carleigh Batchelder and Christopher Murray handled the case.