BIDDEFORD — On Wednesday, a Biddeford man charged with two counts of animal cruelty pleaded not guilty in Biddeford District Court.

Bruce Friedel, 61, faces criminal charges after his pets ”“ a dog and a cat ”“ were found in poor condition in a home on Joshua Drive in early October.

In an interview after his arraignment, Friedel said he tried to get help for his pets prior to being charged.

Friedel had lived at 1 Joshua Drive with his wife, Kathleen, until around Sept. 17, when a bank foreclosed on the couple’s home and they were evicted.

After that, he and his wife lived in a van until they found a new place to live ”“ about two weeks ago.

Friedel said he had medical issues that contributed to the couple’s financial troubles.

He currently works at Fiber Materials, he said.

When his home was foreclosed on, said Friedel, he went to the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk to surrender his pets.

The animal shelter wouldn’t take them, he said, and a call to the shelter after the couple was evicted and forced to leave their home went unanswered.

When he and his wife left their home, Friedel said, he chose to leave the animals in the house, rather than putting them out on the street.

Bobbi Adkins, the director of operations at the AWS, said the shelter has no record of any contact with Friedel.

There is an appointment process for surrenders, she said, but in an urgent situation, “we can make accommodations.”

It was an anonymous tip to Biddeford police’s animal control officer Garth Russell that alerted authorities to the situation.

When officers entered the Joshua Drive property, “they were overwhelmed by an overpowering smell of urine, feces and filth,” according to an email from Biddeford Police Dep. Chief JoAnne Fisk. “The floor inside the property was covered with over a dozen piles of feces, puddles of urine were also observed over the floors. What would once have been a litter box was overrun with cat feces.”

At the property, officers found what Fisk described as “a white and brown scruffy terrier type dog.” The dog, Ursula, had large patches of irritated skin and missing hair. Officers also found a gray tiger cat named Paris, with a significant hind-end limp.

Friedel said after he left his home, he went to the house every other day to feed the animals.

“There was no evidence of any water or food for the animals that was recognizable as animal food,” stated Fisk.

Adkins said both pets were “incredibly thin” and that even if Friedel had been feeding them, “it was not enough to survive.”

Also, she said, when Ursula arrived at the shelter her skin was red and raw and “hot to the touch.”

The cat had an injury to her inner thigh that was so massive, said Adkins, a human hand could fit under its skin.

“It’s hard to say what caused that kind of trauma,” she said.

“We do not as a rule get very many of these types of complaints,” wrote Fisk. “I can only think of less than a handful that rise to this level. It always affects us … There was simply no need of this.”

“We understand people fall on hard times,” she added, but other arrangements could have been made, either with the AWS or by contacting the city’s animal control officer.

“I never got a call from (Friedel),” said Russell.

“If someone is in the type of situation where they think, ”˜What can I do?’” he said. “They can always call me. That’s what I’m here for.”

Despite their suffering, there is good news for both Ursula and Paris.

Once the animals were brought to the AWS, said Adkins, they took a long time to heal. Then in mid-November they were doing better and put on the adoption list.

Both pets were adopted last week and “have a home for the holidays,” she said.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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