The state Supreme Judicial Court has upheld a lower court order that an Industry woman pay $18,000 of the $36,000 veterinarian and kennel bills run up after authorities seized more than two dozen sickly cats from her home in 2011.
The justices also upheld an order that bars Julia Peck from owning more than two cats at any one time, and they must be neutered cats.
Peck had appealed a Franklin County District Court ruling issued in 2012. The high court justices found the fine and ruling against Peck to be fair and consistent with evidence.
Peck argued that there was not enough evidence that her cats were deprived of medical care, the court shouldn’t have excused a key witness from testifying in her case and the statute for cruelty to animals was unconstitutionally vague.
Her attorney, Tawny Alvarez, said by email Wednesday that “while I respect the Law Court and the difficult work they do I am disappointed with the decision.”
The original civil charge stemmed from 2011, when, court documents state, local officials learned Peck had a substantial number of cats at her home.
“Peck was unable to keep up with the outbreak of illnesses and infections among the cats, and only took her cats to a veterinarian when they were very ill or near death,” court documents state. “Although state and local officials attempted to help Peck reduce her cat population over a period of months, the state ultimately seized 26 of the cats.”
Each cat had one or more medical problems, the state argued, and the state spent about $36,800 to treat, house and care for the cats, according to the court documents.
After a three-day trial, at which Peck represented herself, she was ordered to pay $18,000 in restitution in monthly installments of $100 over 15 years.
Alvarez argued that while some of the cats were sick, that fact did not necessarily mean that Peck deprived them of “necessary medical attention.” She argued that Peck had provided her cats with holistic medication and took them to a veterinarian when they were sick.
The state, however, presented evidence that several of Peck’s cats had died shortly after Peck had taken them to a veterinarian.
The veterinarian who was subpoenaed by Peck did not testify and told the court it was because he got the subpoena Saturday, which left him one business day to clear his schedule and would cause him to miss the retirement party for an employee of 20 years.
The court ruled that because Peck didn’t deliver the subpoena until a day before the trial, combined with the witness’s reasons for not coming, that the court was within its limits to excuse the veterinarian from appearing in court.
The court ruled that the animal-cruelty statute is clear in its wording, that there was enough evidence to prove the cats were deprived of medical care, and that the restitution order “is both reasonable and supported by the record.”