HIGGANUM, Conn. (WTNH) – A 32-year-old Higganum man faces 20 charges of animal cruelty.
State police said Haddam Animal Control received a complaint from Deane Moore’s dog sitter, who said she was hired by Moore to watch his 11 German Shepherd dogs, four of which were kept indoors and the rest lived in an outdoor pen, while Moore was vacationing in the Philippines.
The sitter, Naja Muller, was scheduled to care for the dogs during the week, while another couple was taking care of the dogs on weekends, according to Moore. Muller had 15 years of pet care experience.
The sitter told police that while away, two of the German Shepherds gave birth to 10 and nine puppies. The two dogs who gave birth were kept in the outdoor pen, which the sitter did not have access to. The outdoor area was cold and wet, which officials said can be extremely unsafe for newborn puppies.
Muller says the dogs were living in poor conditions and were not taken care of properly.
“The dogs, from the beginning, the moment I would get on the property, even sometimes before I was there, barking, barking, barking, nonstop. There was a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress. I’ve been working with animals for a long time and I do understand dog behavior, and these dogs were kennel stressed,” Muller said.
The sitter, upon realizing she could not access or care for the outdoor dogs, attempted to resign from her position but claims Moore never responded to her.
“I had to go every day and I had to tell these dogs every day ‘I’m trying to help you guys because clearly, your owner doesn’t care about you,’” Muller said.
On April 22, the sitter told officers she saw that two of the puppies had died in the outside kennel, and one was injured.
“When I explained to him the injured puppy needed medical care and should be seen by a vet, he told me he didn’t want to pay for it, that ‘nature should just take its course,’” Muller said.
Two days later, officers tracked down the couple responsible for sitting the dogs on the weekends. The pair told investigators they were not experienced enough to take care of that many dogs. According to the arrest warrant, the couple said that after the puppies died, Moore requested they bury them, which they did.
The couple brought the injured puppy to Pieper Olsen Hospital in Middletown, which then resulted in officials at the hospital contacting Moore because the puppy was separated from its mother.
Officials told Moore that puppies need to be kept in a warm, dry, and clean area to survive, which currently could not be provided for them. A foster home was found and all remaining puppies from one litter were placed there. At this time, Moore also told the hospital staff to euthanize the puppy, officials stated.
Shortly after being placed in a foster home, officials said it was realized that nearly all of the puppies were sick. Officials believe the illness was caused by the unsanitary conditions the puppies lived in, specifically by urine and feces.
According to the arrest warrant, in Moore’s backyard, one of his 11 dogs was reported missing by the original sitter. When officers came to investigate, they found several poorly kept kennels with feces and urine on the ground, and a degrading fence keeping the dogs contained. All dogs were displaying signs of severe stress, the arrest warrant states. In addition to the missing adult dog, two puppies from the remaining litter were reported missing as well, and another puppy died. This left 13 puppies surviving in total, according to police.
Three of the dogs who remained in Moore’s yard were eventually taken into custody, as a concerned resident feared for the dog’s safety. On April 29, Moore was reached via cell phone and was told three of his dogs were taken into custody for their safety.
While on the phone, Moore was informed it was his responsibility to find another sitter, as his first one had officially resigned by this point, to which he said he would need to “call around.” He was also confronted about why he would leave a litter in such an unsafe environment, to which he replied he did not think he did anything wrong.
Authorities executed a search warrant on May 2, and all seven dogs left in Moore’s yard were seized by officials, where they were brought to Higganum Veterinarian Hospital. Several dogs were not up to date on vaccinations and rabies shots, according to officials, which is illegal in this state.
In a Facebook post, Moore claims Muller demanded higher pay and then killed the puppies when Moore refused. He said all of his dogs are vaccinated and well taken care of.
Investigators said Moore has a previous infraction on his record from 2020 when his unlicensed 1-year-old dog attacked and bit a 4-month-old dog in the neighborhood.
Moore posted a $20,000 cash bond. He cannot have any contact with the relocated animals nor possess any animals. He is scheduled to appear at Middletown Superior Court in June.