Seized dogs lived in squalor
By SHAWNE K. WICKHAM
Sunday News Staff
A 69-year-old Andover man faces 14 charges of animal cruelty after police and animal shelter workers found more than a dozen dogs living in his filthy, rat-infested house, and three more dogs shot to death outside.
Authorities were called to the man’s Plains Road home after members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith came to call on him Friday afternoon and discovered a dead dog in his yard, officials said.
The individuals apparently had visited with the man before and knew he had some health problems, officials said. Fearing for his welfare when Labraney did not answer his door, they contacted police.
When state and local police officers arrived, they found the three dead dogs, apparently shot in the head, lying outside, with other dogs chained nearby. Police called the staff at the Concord Merrimack Valley SPCA to take custody of the living animals.
That turned out to be extremely difficult, according to Kim Adams, executive director of the Penacook shelter.
Kathy Counter, director of operations of Concord/Merrimack County SPCA, checks one of the juvenile dogs seized during an investigation of animal abuse in Andover. (BRUCE TAYLOR/UNION LEADER)
“There were dogs hanging out the windows looking out, and dogs tied every which way,” she said. “It was unbelievable.”
Adams said two of the dead dogs “had their back legs bound, with twine, like you’d do a hay bale with.” She said they appeared to have been shot through their ears, at close range.
And the dogs living outside were in “absolute squalor,” she said. “One of them was in a hole in the ground, with boards over the top of it so it couldn’t get in or get out. That was its place.”
Garbage, feces, rats
The conditions inside the home were even worse. “You’ve never seen such filth and squalor in your life,” Adams said. “I’d say the floor was lifted six to eight inches just from garbage and feces. There were rats running around.
“It was a nightmare.”
Labraney arrived at the house as police and shelter workers were investigating.
One puppy was sitting outside the house, on top of wooden pallets. “The man told us the other puppies threw it out the window because they didn’t like it,” Adams said.
Shelter workers were unable to capture the skittish pup Friday night, and had to leave her behind. But they returned yesterday afternoon and succeeded in snaring her and bringing her to the shelter.
Adams said Labraney signed his animals over to the SPCA but at first refused to let authorities inside the home. According to officials, he told police there were weapons inside, and state police then sought and got a search warrant to look for the guns.
Labraney subsequently was arrested on a felony charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, after state police confiscated two rifles from his house. He was released on personal recognizance and will appear in Franklin District Court in September, according to state police.
His arrest for neglecting his many dogs was the latest trouble in a life marked by a violent act Labraney committed more than 42 years ago and, more recently, by serious illness.
The 1969 fatality
The former Franklin resident spent years in state prison after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter for fatally shooting a man he spotted driving on Route 93 in Bow with his former girlfriend on Feb. 9, 1963. According to newspaper accounts from the time, he confessed to the highway shooting but told officers he intended only to “tingle” the victim’s arm with a shot.
Rumors of his past troubles and prison term had accompanied Labraney to Andover, where he lived in the secluded trailer and sold parts off junk cars piled about the property, according to Police Chief Glenn Laramie.
State Police Trooper Eric Shirley confirmed that Labraney was sentenced to 20 to 30 years in state prison for the 1963 shooting, after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He originally had been charged with first-degree murder in the case.
Shirley said after troopers got the search warrant Friday, Labraney showed them where he kept two .22-caliber rifles inside, and the weapons were confiscated.
Three dogs shot
But first the SPCA employees had to remove the dogs from the house, using poles with attached nooses to ensnare the snarling, lunging animals, Adams said.
She believes they knew that three of their pack mates had been killed. “If dogs are around when a dog is killed or a dog is being shot or a dead dog is lying there, dogs sense that. And they certainly have a great sense of smell.”
She said someone was setting off fireworks in the neighborhood while she was there, and the dogs were reacting with panic. “I’m sure they were terrified they were going to be shot.”
Adams said Labraney told officials he had asked a neighbor to shoot his dogs. “It’s my understanding they were shot because neighbors were complaining the dogs were running. They kept getting loose, so he just decided he would shoot them and that would end their running.”
Dogs running loose
Indeed, Chief Laramie said police had gotten numerous complaints about Labraney’s dogs running loose. And he said the department had finally issued a citation for leash law violations to the man within the last two weeks.
“We gave him a number of warnings because we knew he didn’t have any money,” the chief said. “Yet I have to do what’s right for the neighborhood.”
Relatives of Labraney last night were upset with what has happened and say he has tried to care for his dogs even as his health has deteriorated.
Matt Laro of Franklin said he has known Labraney for 33 years and grew up with the man’s son, Christopher, with whom he has been living for several months.
“He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body,” Laro said. “I consider him another father. That’s how much I love him. He’ll give his shirt off his back to anybody.”
Laro said Labraney was diagnosed with prostate cancer several years ago and now has a colostomy bag, after part of his intestine was removed. But he said the man still managed to drive to his Andover property every day to give the dogs food and water.
He said Labraney had someone shoot the three dogs after they turned on him.
And Labraney’s daughter-in-law, who would not give her name, said Labraney wept when he found out some of the dogs have been euthanized since they were picked up by the SPCA.
“He goes there every single day and he takes care of them and he plays with them. He’s always patting them and giving them bones.”
“He wants you to know that he loves his dogs and he’s not abusive to them. He takes care of them,” she said.
Those who responded to the Labraney property Friday were shocked by what they encountered.
“I have never seen anything quite like that in my life,” Trooper Shirley said. “Even if you’re not an animal lover, you’d be sympathetic with their condition. It was not a place for a human or an animal to be living.”
“I think he just went and fed and watered the animals and left them in there.”
A feral colony
“It’s the worst situation I’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Matthew Mason of Blackwater Veterinary Services in Salisbury, whom Adams called to examine the dead dogs. “It was absolutely atrocious.”
Sandy Clabaugh, director of development of Concord/Merrimack County SPCA, holds puppies shelter employees have named Huckleberry, left, and Bertie. They estimate the dogs are approximately 10 to 14 weeks old. (BRUCE TAYLOR/UNION LEADER)
Adams said it is not illegal to shoot your own dog on your own property. The animal cruelty charges against Labraney stem from the condition in which the other dogs were living.
She does have doubts about the man’s claim that he asked a friend to shoot his dogs, because of how viciously the others reacted to the shelter workers trying to rescue them. “Somebody had to know these dogs in order to be able to shoot them that closely.”
But on Friday, even Labraney couldn’t get near the animals.
Mason said one of the dogs bit Labraney as the man was trying to get him out of a wooden crate outdoors, and none of the other animals responded to him either. “I don’t know how he was feeding the dogs inside because he certainly couldn’t walk through the door.”
“What I witnessed from a distance as he was trying to get the dogs out of the trailer, it was pretty awful. It definitely didn’t show he had any relationship at all with these dogs. It’s not like he went out there and spent time with them. I think he went out there and put food out and that was about it.”
“He didn’t even know how many dogs he owned and he couldn’t tell us any names.”
Asked if he believes the man is a criminal or a victim, Mason said it’s hard to know. “From the animals’ point of view, he’s a criminal as far as not taking care of them. But then again, he’s not taking care of himself either. He’s barely getting by himself.”
“I don’t know if it was just one of those situations getting more and more out of control.”
Bleak future for dogs
Adams said the future for many of the 14 dogs rescued Friday appears bleak. While some seemed to recover after a night of rest and quiet, and may eventually become socialized to humans, most of the adults will have to be put down.
“When you have dogs at that age that have never really had human contact, they are not adoptable pets,” she said. “They’re dogs that have essentially been kept wild.”
“It’s heartbreaking for us . . . There are not people who are going to line up and take these vicious dogs. Nor could we feel safe about putting them in the community. If they got loose and got out, someone could get hurt.”
“So the most humane thing for these dogs now is to euthanize them,” Adams said, her voice betraying her emotion. “They’re not living in filth, they’re not sleeping on top of their own feces anymore, and they’re not afraid they’re going to be shot.”
Veterinarian Mason agreed.
“I think it’s a very humane thing to do,” he said. “Unfortunately, temperament-wise, they’re a real high-risk type of thing. They’re not going to be readily adoptable, and it’s just not going to be safe.”
Adams said she hopes whatever happens to Labraney legally, “he should not own dogs ever again.”
One more mystery
Meanwhile, state police said they have forwarded evidence from their investigation to the town’s health inspector for possible civil action.
And Chief Laramie said he expects the trailer will be condemned for health code violations.
But Mason questioned why no one discovered the conditions at the house before now. “I was shocked when somebody said this gentleman lived there periodically. It’s just not right.
“And I don’t understand why the town hadn’t been there more frequently, or hadn’t been a lot more proactive on it. I don’t know why something wasn’t done sooner.”