FORT EDWARD -- The two men accused of felony animal cruelty in the abandonment of a duct-taped dog along a road in Argyle earlier this year will stand trial separately in the coming weeks, now that a judge has declined to dismiss the charges against them.
Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan found there was sufficient evidence against Shane A. Morehouse and Louis M. Hart for the cases against them to go to trial.
The two men have rejected plea deal offers that would require them to either plead guilty to a felony count of aggravated animal cruelty and spend 5 years on probation or plead guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty and spend 6 months in Washington County Jail.
Lawyers in the case held closed-door conferences with McKeighan on Friday, during which the judge decided that the two men should have separate trials. While they are charged with abusing the same dog, a mixed-breed named Chubby, the charges against them stem from separate acts.
Each will likely be one of the main witnesses against the other when the cases go to trial, Morehouse starting July 23, Hart on Aug. 6.
McKeighan set trial dates after denying requests by lawyers for both men to throw out the indictments against them. McKeighan ruled there is enough evidence for the cases to go to trial, but lawyers for the men said they don’t believe there is sufficient evidence to convict them.
Hart’s lawyer, Michael Martin, said the proof will show that his client sought medical care and bought food for Chubby before he gave the dog to Morehouse.
The dog had suffered a neck injury from a run, and Hart did not want it to have to wear a collar, Martin said. So he gave it to Morehouse to give to a friend who had a farm in Argyle where it could run free, he said.
“My guy gave him (Morehouse) a case of dog food when he gave him the dog,” Morehouse said. “My client is upset, he thinks Shane should be punished.”
That is a different version of the story than Morehouse told, however.
He has said Hart wanted him to kill the dog, because Hart could not afford veterinary care, but Morehouse could not go through with the killing and left the dog at a pull-off along Coach Road the morning of Feb. 3. He said Hart helped him duct-tape the dog.
A group of Argyle Highway Department workers found the dog with duct tape binding its paws and on its muzzle.
State Police charged Morehouse, 52, of Fort Edward with misdemeanor animal cruelty, but a Washington County grand jury upgraded the charges to include a felony along with the misdemeanor.
The dog had a neck injury that predated the abandonment, and was found to have advanced internal cancer. It was euthanized the day it was rescued.
It was for the neck wound that Hart, 43, of Hudson Falls, has been charged with aggravated animal cruelty.
Both men are free, pending further court appearances. The felony charges are punishable by up to 2 years in state prison.