Jury begins deliberations in pair’s animal-abuse trial

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 14

SWANTON — The animal-abuse case here is in the hands of a jury.

Both sides concluded their cases yesterday in the trial of Mary Barker and Jose Vasquez, who run Mary and Joe’s Petland on Airport Highway. They are each charged with 12 counts of animal abuse. Officials claim they starved their dogs, packed them into closed closets, and left them exposed in burning sunshine and winter snow. They are charged with falsifying veterinary records and bloodline documentation to save money.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Jeff Lydy called his clients victims of overzealous police work. He said the many illnesses from which his clients’ dogs suffered could afflict even the best cared-for animal.

“Dogs get worms,” he said, picking one example. “It’s a fact.

“We’ve all seen dogs with worms and these other ailments.”

He showed the jury seven photos of kennels with filled food and water dishes to indicate his clients did feed their dogs; he said the prosecution was latching on to a isolated incidents.

In response, prosecutor Colin McQuade said the accusations were part of a clear pattern. “Mistake after mistake after mistake are not mistakes. They’re habits.”

He also noted that the cages shown in Mr. Lydy’s photos did not house the dogs for which the defendants were being charged.

After a lunch break, Judge Robert Saxer gave more than 30 minutes of instructions to the jury, carefully detailing each charge. The six men and two women deliberated for more than three hours, then adjourned for the night.

Ms. Barker and Mr. Vasquez face charges of theft and income tax fraud. In addition, Ms. Barker is charged with resisting arrest and obstructing official business.

The trial will enter its fifth day this morning when the jury resumes deliberation.