A Judge ruled Wednesday afternoon that the state could retain custody of 249 dogs seized from a kennel in Buxton in August.

The owners of the kennel, John Frasca, 53, and Heidi Frasca, 52, didn’t appear at the hearing in Biddeford District Court. They have 21 days to appeal the ruling, according to York County District Attorney Mark Lawrence.

“We’re looking at taking it to a higher court,” John Frasca said in an interview after the hearing.

“I’m not bringing my bat and ball into their ballpark,” Frasca said, when asked why he hadn’t appeared in court.

Approximately 30 people were present in the courtroom where prosecutor Jessica Christensen was accompanied by State Veterinarian Christine Fraser and Buxton Officer Mike Grovo, who carried what appeared to be a box of documents.

“The kennel was in horrible condition the day the kennel was seized,” Christensen told Judge Christine Foster, who ruled that the dogs should be placed in permanent state care.

Outside the court house, protesters were gathered, carrying signs that objected to the treatment the animals had received at what many of them described as a “puppy mill.”

“I came because animals should not be treated in a way to make money off of them,” said protester Maggie Jones, who lives a short distance from the kennel in Buxton. “Puppy mills in general deny basic care.”

Buxton police and animal welfare agents raided the J’aime Kennel, located at 35 Paucek Road, on Aug. 21, seizing 249 dogs. The Frascas were issued 14 summonses for an unlicensed kennel, two summonses for animal cruelty and one summons for failure to provide necessary medical treatment to animals. The Frascas deny the allegations and face a November court date for the criminal charges.

The state didn’t renew the kennel’s license last November. This summer, the state had scheduled a hearing for September, the Frascas said. But, after receiving complaints from the public, the state got a warrant for the raid.

After the seizure, dogs at the kennel have been tested for giardia after the state said a puppy sold by the kennel had the disease. Police also said several dogs were diagnosed with Sarcoptic Mange, which can be passed to humans.

As of Tuesday, the Frascas had been unable to retain a lawyer. John Frasca claims evidence was gathered illegally and a warrant on the day of the raid was invalid. Prior to the hearing Wednesday, he had said he planned to ask for a jury trial.

The high-profile case has drawn attention of animal rights activists. Robert Fisk, director of Maine Friends of Animals, the group that organized the protest outside of the court house, said about 50 people from his group supported the animal welfare program. Fisk said the kennel had 80 violations in three years.

“They were nothing more than a glorified puppy mill,” Fisk said.

Gail Marcotte of Biddeford was one of the protesters on the sidewalk in front of the court house. “I don’t think the animals should be used. No one has the right to hurt the animals,” Marcotte said.

Another supporter, Beth Hazen of Kennebunk, has been a volunteer helping some of the agencies at the Buxton kennel. “I want to make sure they don’t get the animals back,” Hazen said. “I cried there, I still cry.

But pet owner Thelma True of West Gardiner sat in the courtroom in support of the Frascas. True said she had been in the kennel a few days before the raid and said it was beautiful. True said the kennel was equipped with stainless steel feed pans and an automatic watering system.

Another kennel owner, Steve Mason, felt the case should have been dismissed. “They want to shut down anyone who breeds dogs in Maine,” Mason said about the state.

Earlier this month, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), based in Norfolk, Va., urged “vigorous” prosecution by Lawrence’s office.

Meanwhile, the cost of treating and caring for the animals is spiraling upward. Worley said costs have now risen to $75,000 since the animals were confiscated 37 days ago, and they are expected to continue rising as animal welfare workers continue caring for animals at the kennel and at local shelters.

Worley said Tuesday 150-170 dogs remain at the Buxton kennel, which is under 24-hour guard, and no date has been set to remove all the dogs. The dogs are under the care of Fraser, a state veterinarian, along with volunteer vets and welfare workers, including staff from the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook and the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk.

“We’re in a holding pattern right now,” Worley said.

Following a court ruling that grants possession of the animals to the state, Worley said, the dogs would be dispersed to 15 humane societies around the state. There, the dogs would be available for adoption. She said the societies would screen those people wishing to adopt the dogs.

Worley said the dogs would be removed from the Buxton kennel as quickly as the society shelters were prepared to handle them. The dogs would be transferred on a case-by-case basis when they’ve been determined healthy.

Some dogs needing special care have been removed from the site to clinics and welfare societies. In Westbrook, the Animal Refuge League reported this week it has 22 of the dogs.

Andrew Ferreira, executive director of the Animal Refuge League on Stroudwater Street, said this week the Animal Welfare Department would determine where the dogs would be sent after the court decides. “I don’t want to second guess Norma’s office where these would go,” said Andrew Ferreira.

The shelter is still seeking donations to pay for food and care of the dogs it’s sheltering after early response from the public has tapered off. “It’s coming in trickles,” said Ferreira.

The Animal Refuge League hasn’t organized a specific event to raise money for the Buxton dogs it’s housing. The league did raise $32,000 in cash at its 10th annual Paws in the Park on Sept. 16 in Deering Oaks, Portland.

“It’s already stretched pretty thin,” Ferreira said.

Worley said the state picks up the tab for medical expenses and reimburses shelters $5 per day for boarding an adult dog. Worley said the majority of the money supporting her department is raised through the state’s dog licensing program. The state splits $6 dog licensing fees with the towns.

HELPING OUT

Those interested in helping out the shelters that are caring for the seized Buxton dogs can donate to:

The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, P.O. Box 336 Westbrook, Maine 04098. The Web site is www.arlgp.org.

The Animal Welfare Society, PO Box 43, West Kennebunk, Maine 04094. The Web site is www.animalwelfaresociety.org.

Jeffery Snipe of New Glouster holding his dog Maguva speaks with Maureen Sanford of Westbrook outside the Maine District court building in Biddeford Wednesday. Staff photo by Mike Hadley Maggie Jones of Buxton holds a sign in a peaceful protest outside the Maine District court in Biddeford on Wednesday.Sylvia Moore of Sanford and Ann Marie Duguay of Old Orcherd Beach protest outside the Maine District court in Biddeford on Wednesday.Bobby Porter of Sanford holds a sign in protest at the Maine District court in Biddeford on Monday.


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