Laurinda Miller, owner of Sweet Paws Spa & Inn was charged with 21 Class A Misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty back in July 2015, when 7 cats and 59 dogs living under her care were found severely malnourished, dehydrated and living in their own feces.
There was blatant evidence in this case against Miller, including the witness’s reports of Miller’s suspicious activity leading to the warrant to search her property, the malnourished animals themselves, police and animal rescue reports taken from the premises describing the horrid condition in which the animals were living, as well as several photographs that were taken on the scene.
As a last stitch effort to avoid a monetary fine and any jail time, Miller’s attorney filed a motion to suppress the evidence that was found against her. However, Judge James Patten ruled against the motion and found that the evidence was indeed obtained lawfully and that all evidence would be admissible at trial.
Many can justifiably state that NH’s current animal cruelty laws are weak at best, however, evidence against Miller clearly indicated that at the very least, the animals in her care were not provided with the clean water, shelter, or sustenance that is required under NH law.
Although certain sources indicated on May 12th that Laurinda Miller was found not guilty, Judge James Patten completely dismissed the case against Miller in a written order on May 11th.(1)
So the question now is, if the evidence deemed admissible by Judge Patten proved the animals in Miller’s possession where not cared for as required by current NH laws, how on earth did Judge Patten decide to dismiss the case?
According to the Conway Daily Sun, witness reports indicated that there was no potable water, the water in the kennels was brown and yellow, and there were "mountains of feces" on the floor.
However, Miller claimed during the trail that the animals were found living in feces due to a septic system problem that just so happened to greatly worsen a mere 24-hours before the police arrived in July 2015.
When Miller then stated that her septic troubles started in 2014, but worsened in the spring of 2015, prosecutor Attorney Geoffrey Gallagher questioned why she did not reach out during that time to a local animal rescue group to house the animals while she solved the problem. Certainly there is proof of available local rescue groups, as it was the local animal shelters, such as the Conway Area Humane Society, that took in the 59 dogs and about 10 cats after the police raid on Miller’s premises. Logic indicates that they also would have taken the dogs if Miller had previously reached out to them. However, although Miller runs a so-called animal rescue herself, she idiotically claimed that she did not know she could call people to take the dogs. She also stated she was, "upset and obsessed over the septic system.”
It appears that from Miller’s own testimony, that even if her claimed faulty septic system problem was true, it was too stressful and more important to her then actually finding a safe shelter for the animals.
Miller also pointed her fingers to others, claiming that she shared keys to the premises with her fellow board members of the rescue group, but never received any help from them. This also is not necessarily the truth, as StraightTwist discovered an online fundraiser created by one of Miller’s board members, under the name 'Sweet Tails Animal Rescue', the rescue group affiliated with Sweet Paws Spa & Inn, of which Miller herself is the president. (Whether or not the other board members of Sweet Tails Animal Rescue were aware of the animal cruelty or were witnesses in the case is unknown at this time.)
Then she went as far as to say that the trial made her feel suicidal stating, “I just wanted to take my truck and drive it into a tree.”…"I didn't feel there was anything left, my whole life, my animals, my career, my home, my business. It was all gone — everything I worked for nine years, seven days a week, no vacations."
Is it possible that Judge Patten bought her ridiculous septic story? Or that perhaps he took pity on Miller because of her teary-eyed claims of being suicidal due to the trail? If that is the case, his ruling resulted in a serious injustice today.
Regardless of how many keys to her premises that she gave out, whether or not her very convenient septic story is true, or how shameful she may feel because she was caught in her inhumane acts of cruelty, it does not change the facts. The facts are, she is the owner of the so-called animal rescue and spa, she took responsibility for those animals and there was evidence legally obtained proving that those animals were not cared for as required by NH state law. The animals under her care were malnourished, dehydrated and living on a premises that was full of feces and according to an expert eye witness, “reeked of urine and death”.
Laurinda Miller can cry and make all the excuses she wants, but those tears and excuses do not change what she has done.
It just goes to show you that we do not only need stronger laws protecting animals in the state of New Hampshire, but we also need judges that will not shy away from rulings that implement those laws.
In the meantime, the Humane Society of the United States stated today, “We will continue fighting to strengthen our state’s laws to protect animals and to offer free trainings to law enforcement and prosecutors as well as judicial training to ensure appropriate penalties are handed down in cases where animals have been mistreated and neglected.”
(1) Update Friday May 13, 2016: Based on most recent information, Judge James Patten officially dismissed the case against Laurinda Miller, as opposed to ruling with a guilty or not guilty verdict. Although Judge Patten admitted in writing that he doubted Miller’s septic system troubles as an explanation for the excessive amounts of feces on her premises, his decision to dismiss the case, is based solely on his interpretation of the wording within the current NH animal cruelty laws and the wording of the complaints filed against her.