A Hamilton man charged with animal cruelty had his day in court, stating fleas and separation anxiety may have led to significant weight loss for his dogs, but not a lack of nutrition.
Brian Trauthwein, 42, of Franklin St., was issued misdemeanor citations on March 23, a day after he called 911 asking for a dog warden to come pick up “stray dogs” he said he found two weeks prior near his mudroom.
It was later determined the malnourished dogs, Porsche and Chloe, had belonged to Trauthwein for years and he was not truthful with dispatchers or Deputy Dog Warden Supervisor Kurt Merbs.
During testimony this week at a bench trial before Hamilton Municipal Court Judge Dan Gattermeyer, Merbs said both dogs were thin, but Porsche, a boxer, was emaciated.
“It was the worst I have ever had as far as an emaciated dog that was still alive,” Merbs said. Chloe, a pit bull, was also very thin, he said.
Trauthwein told Merbs the same thing he told dispatchers: that he had found the dogs two weeks prior and their health continued to decline.
Merbs said when he picked up Porsche to take her to his truck, he became aware of the odor from large, open sores under her front forearms. She was dressed in a T-shirt, hiding the sores and her thin condition. There was no bedding on the plywood floor, but there was dog food in planters
During later questioning, Merbs said Trauthwein admitted he owned the dogs. Merbs said Trauthwein mentioned the dogs had fleas, maybe cancer, and that he could not afford care for them.
“He said he didn’t have any money, didn’t have a driver’s license and he didn’t know want to do,” Merbs said, noting Trauthwein told him he did feed the dogs.
When Porsche was taken to Animal Friends Human Society, she weighted 20.2 pounds. After regular food, water and antibiotic for her wounds, the dog left the facility for her adopted home in May weighing 44 pounds. Chloe also gained significant weight and has since been adopted.
Hamilton Municipal Court Prosecutor Samantha Wicktora pointed out that Porsche gained weight “after only being offered food, water and given antibiotics.”
Veterinarian Dr. David Corfman, who examined both dogs at the shelter, testified Porsche was “about as thin as you can be and still be alive.”
He said ill-fitting clothing could have caused the wounds under her forearms and said he saw no evidence of fleas on either dog.
“I feel confident (Porsche) was deprived of adequate nutrition and fluids,” Corfman said. He described Chloe as “very thin, but not dire.”
Trauthwein took the stand in his own defense, telling the judge he was a sole caretaker of his grandmother and is disabled without an income.
He admitted to calling 911 and lying about being the owner of the dogs because he had been told if he had had them for longer, he would be considered the owner.
“I royally messed up on that one,” Trauthwein said. “I felt like I had no choice. I was stuck and they were getting worse by the day.”
Trauthwein said he called some agencies and veterinary clinics, but got no help.
“Everybody wanted money, and I didn’t have a license to drive them anywhere,” he said.
Trauthwein said he did feed the dogs, but they began loosing weight after a flea infestation in the house. He said he also believes “his girls” suffered from separation anxiety when they had to be moved to another area of the house.
Merbs testified there is a fee to surrender animals to the shelter, but he would not have let dogs in Porsche and Chloe’s condition leave even if there was no payment.
Defense attorney Jeremy Evans said during closing statements that Trauthwein was trying to make do with the resources he had.
“He had no money, he lied to save their lives,” Evans said, noting there is no evidence he deprived the dogs of food and water.
Gattermeyer is reviewing all the all the evidence and will issue a decision on July 30.