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Four are charged in animal cruelty case at Hebron shelter

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Animals confiscated

Derek Pruitt - dpruitt@poststar.com SPCA volunteer Tracy Snell, left, and Jessica Barrett, with Hebron animal control, wipe down a puppy as they help to intake 57 dogs and 12 cats at the SPCA of Upstate New York in Kingsbury on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011. The animals were removed from a Hebron home owned by Gabrielle D'Amour who operates a shelter called Peaceable Animal Rescue. SPCA Executive Director Cathy Cloutier said D'Amour signed over 57 dogs and 12 cats to the SPCA, but there was initially around 140 animals on the property. Cloutier said animal rescuers have to know when to say enough is enough otherwise they move from being a rescuer to being a hoarder. The animals will have to be checked by veterinarians before adoption options can be determined, according to Cloutier.

HEBRON -- Four people were charged Monday with animal cruelty for their roles in the operation of an animal shelter raided by police and the SPCA last month.

Gabrielle S. D'Amour, 37, and her husband, Christian W. Goldner, 50, each face 54 misdemeanor counts in connection with the conditions of 68 dogs and cats taken from their 7491 Route 22, Hebron home on Sept. 21, according to Washington County Sheriff's Deputy Michael McWhorter.

The couple operates Peaceable Kingdom Animal Rescue from the home.

Two Vermont residents who assist them, Michael J. Lawyer, 40, and Lynn E. Lawyer, 39, both of North Bennington. Vt., were charged with a single count each of animal cruelty.

The charges against them pertain to a dog they were caring for that wound up on the property of a neighbor of D'Amour's, whose complaint prompted police and SPCA of Upstate New York to go to the home to check on the animals.

All four were released pending prosecution in Hebron Town Court.

McWhorter said the animals were found to be emaciated, dehydrated and with numerous medical problems that did not appear to have been treated, including mange, eye infections, dental problems and diarrhea.

The home was ordered closed by the Washington County Code Enforcement Office, pending a cleanup.

"The conditions were extremely unsanitary," McWhorter said.

Numerous dogs and cats were allowed to remain there as the house is cleaned up. McWhorter said the health of those animals did not seem as poor as that of the animals that were turned over.

D'Amour agreed to surrender the 68 animals to the SPCA of Upstate New York, and McWhorter said he had not heard that any had died or been euthanized.

McWhorter said the police investigation was continuing and more charges are possible.

One of the aspects of the investigation that remain open is D'Amour's past claims that Peaceable Kingdom was a registered nonprofit organization.

The organization's page on the social networking website Facebook had up until several months ago included a claim that it was a "501c(3)" nonprofit, referring to the section of the Internal Revenue Code that covers nonprofits.

But a search of the Internal Revenue Service's website shows Peaceable Kingdom is not registered under 501c(3).

"We would like to talk to people who adopted animals from Peaceable Kingdom or donated to them to understand what they were told," McWhorter said. "There's a lot to this case that we're still looking into."

The organization's Facebook page also listed a Route 22, North Granville address until a day or two after the police and SPCA visit to the home.

Anyone with information in the case was asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 747-4623.

D'Amour was also prosecuted in April 2007, after State Police found 50 dogs and cats and what they called "very unsanitary conditions" at her home, leading to her arrest on misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child and criminal nuisance for allowing her children to live there.

The charges were ultimately dropped with an agreement that she not operate the shelter from her home for at least a year.

Any children who live in the home are now older than 17, McWhorter said.

D'Amour, contacted for comment Tuesday, said, "My only comment is that there are still many dogs here available for adoption."

The day of the police raid, she told a reporter that she brings dogs to Peaceable Kingdom that were brought to shelters in other states where they would be euthanized if homes weren't found.

Peaceable Kingdom has been holding adoption clinics at pet stores in the Albany area earlier this year.

Its website lists an adoption clinic planned for Saturday, but also includes references to "trying to close our doors."

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