911 Call Results in Animal Cruelty Arrest
The 911 call came in to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department on a freezing evening in January. The frantic caller reported that two dogs on a neighbor’s property were viciously attacking a llama who was trapped on a frozen pond. On the way to the scene, the Sheriff’s deputies called Sharon Hayes, Director of the Fulton County SPCA. When the deputies arrived, they frightened the dogs away from the injured llama. Hayes, who arrived within minutes, summoned a veterinarian, and the unfortunate animal who had been badly mauled in the attack was euthanized. The dreadful scene had unfolded on the property of Julianna Bennett Blue, who had been arrested in the past for not caring for the scores of animals she had accumulated. Hayes had assisted the police by rescuing those animals as well.
Glancing around the property, the Sheriff´s deputies and Hayes concluded that the situation had again deteriorated to a deplorable state. There were numerous equines in poor condition, and dead animals were seen in various areas. A deputy discussed the excessive number of animals with Bennett Blue, who agreed to surrender the majority to the Fulton County SPCA. Animals who were in the worst condition, including several dogs, were transported to the SPCA that evening. Bennett Blue retained custody of one dog and some peacocks, love birds, and parakeets.As a result of the apparent neglected state of the animals and the unhealthy conditions on the property, the Sheriff’s Department issued Bennett Blue an appearance ticket to report to court on an animal cruelty charge.
The next day, Friday, Hayes contacted NYSHA, which had provided assistance to her on other cases, for help with removing the balance of the surrendered animals, particularly the equines. NYSHA began reviewing its list of haulers who had assisted in other cruelty cases. In addition, NYSHA called Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS), with whom it had worked on a cruelty case last year, in hopes they knew some haulers who would help. Hayes also contacted Jeff Eyre, a NYSHA Board member and cruelty investigator at Spring Farm Cares (SFC). Thankfully, SFC said it was able to provide a stock trailer.
Saturday morning, NYSHA Board members Jean Daniels and Pat Valusek drove to Fulton County to assist Hayes and other volunteers with taking a census of the various surrendered animals remaining on the Bennett Blue property. There were 6 horses, 18 donkeys, 6 ponies, 8 Llamas, 7 mini horses, 1 mule, and over 30 cats.
After the census, the next objective was to remove the cats. Daniels and Valusek joined SPCA volunteers in placing cats in carriers and transporting them to the SPCA. Once there, the cats received veterinary care, grooming, and food. Sadly, because some of the cats on the property were feral, not all could be caught. Bennett Blue was instructed to feed them until they could be trapped and removed. (Unfortunately, Bennett Blue subsequently refused permission to the SPCA to enter the property to retrieve them.)At the SPCA, Daniels and Valusek took pictures of a dog who had been removed the first evening. His was the worse case of matting anyone in the group had seen. Although the groomer was coming the next day, Hayes wanted to make the poor creature more comfortable and removed about two pounds of mat. After the groomer removed another eight pounds of mats, Hayes said the dog was finally recognizable as a severely underweight English Sheep Dog.
Meanwhile, CAS contacted NYSHA to say it was able to secure haulers to help, and the equine removal was scheduled for Sunday. CAS, with a convoy of six transport trailers, arrived to join the trailers from the SPCA and Spring Farm Cares. Hayes was overjoyed at the number of haulers who had responded on short notice.
Most of the equines were removed Sunday and taken to Ulster and Dutchess counties. They would remain at CAS and on family farms while awaiting permanent homes. On Monday, Hayes removed the few remaining equines from the Bennett Blue property and took them to local farms to be fostered.
It was a remarkable feat that this number of animals had been removed and placed in four days. Hayes was thankful and delighted. As of mid‑June, all the surrendered animals had been placed in good homes. Bennett Blue has been charged with additional counts of animal cruelty, and her trial is scheduled for July. Also, Bennett Blue’s house was condemned by code enforcement authorities for the unsanitary and unhealthy conditions inside.
The Fulton County SPCA with its all volunteer staff did a tremendous job on this case, and NYSHA is pleased to have been able to assist in bringing relief to these unfortunate animals.
New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XVIII, No.2, Summer 2004.