April 08, 2020

20 dogs, 1 cat removed from Topsfield home

TOPSFIELD – Twenty dogs and one cat living in what appeared to be filthy conditions were seized by state animal welfare agents and the owner has been ordered to appear in 4th District Court on Thursday to explain why the state should return her animals.

The dogs seized included two Cavalier King Charles spaniel-poodle hybrids, one Cavalier King Charles spaniel and one white standard poodle. The remaining dogs were black miniature poodles.

On Sept. 19, Agent Chrissy Perry of the state’s Animal Welfare Program went to the home of Margo Malpher on North Road acting on a tip that the dogs’ kennel was filthy. Perry found no one home, but learned that Malpher frequently traveled to Massachusetts and often left the dogs alone, according to her report.

Perry said she could hear dogs barking inside the house and in the nearby kennel. “I could smell a strong odor of urine and feces coming from the area,” her report on file in 4th District Court said. “A large dog inside the house was jumping up and appeared to be smearing a brown substance resembling fecal matter on the window.”

Perry left a notice. She returned two more times, but Malpher still was not home. Perry went to the town office and talked to the clerk who provided her with a copy of the kennel licenses that Malpher had for her dogs. “I asked the clerk if she knew if Ms. Malpher had anyone caring for the dogs while she was away and she stated she believed that Jacyln Hagar and Melinda Piche, neighbors of Ms. Malpher, cared for them,” the report said.

In 2004, a 4th District Court judge ordered that the 31 dogs and two cats that belonged to Hagar and Piche be turned over to the state.

Perry said she tried to contact the two women, but they would not talk to her, although they later told a sheriff’s deputy they had cared for the dogs in the past, but not recently. Piche said she had not seen anyone at the residence for three days.

On Sept. 21, Maine State Police Trooper Kim Janis, Perry and state veterinarian Dr. Christine Fraser went to the Malpher home, search warrant in hand.

At first Malpher refused to let them in, but later agreed.

Malpher told the state officials she had been away and that her neighbors were caring for her animals. She later said that “caring for her animals” meant looking in the window of the kennel. There were self-feeders and self-watering bowls in each kennel.

Before she let them in, the dog owner said she had one dog loose in the kennel and wanted to put her outside. “She came from inside the kennel with a white standard poodle that was in need of grooming and appeared to be wet with urine and her white hair was discolored from the urine and feces in the kennel,” the report said.

Perry said when they entered the kennels they noticed an “overwhelming odor of urine and feces.” In addition to the dogs living in the kennel, agents found a bed that “Ms. Malpher appeared to be sleeping in.” There also were two cockatiels, three parakeets and three other finch-type birds in cages in that same area.

“The bird cages were in need of cleaning, but the birds had food and water and were able to sit on the perches to avoid the filth in the bottom of the cages,” the report said.

Agents also found urine and piles of feces in the back of the kennel. “The ammonia smell from the urine was so overwhelming that it caused my nose and throat to burn,” Perry wrote in her report. The state officials found dogs that were matted and covered with fecal matter, jumping at their kennel doors.

State officials then went into the house where a miniature poodle named Moosie was living. “Dr. Fraser and I entered the residence and it became apparent why Ms. Malpher was now living in the kennel building,” the report said. “The house was filthy and extremely cluttered with old food, newspapers and other debris. A mattress in the downstairs room was covered with urine and piles of feces. There was a buildup of dog food on the floor near the entrance door that was moldy. A longhaired gray cat was also inside the residence.”

Perry said that Malpher became upset when she informed her she would be taking all the animals.

“One of the female dogs named Irena had no hair on her body, only on her head and legs. The small amount of hair she did have was matted and Ms. Malpher stated that she was a purebred poodle and was born with no hair,” the report said.

Before she left, Perry ordered Malpher to clean the bird cages and to provide the birds with food and water at all times. “The birds were left at the property due to the cold temperature outside and their sensitivity to stress involved in transporting them to the shelter,” the report said.

The animals were taken to the Bangor Humane Society.

Several of the dogs had a black discharge coming from their ears. It took five groomers at the Bangor Humane Society all weekend to clean the dogs. The groomers found that several of the dogs appeared to have skin issues related to the severe matting, and some had urine scalding on their bodies, especially their feet. Some of the pads on their feet were actually bleeding due to the urine scalding.

This is not the first time that Malpher has had a run-in with state agents.

In 2004, Perry said in her report that she investigated another complaint against Malpher concerning dogs living in filthy conditions, and in 2005, Perry issued Malpher a notice to clean the entrance area to her kennel.

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