Sunday, February 23, 2003

Men in cruelty case say they love dogs

The Associated Press

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Two Jessamine County men facing animal cruelty charges testified in court this week that they cared deeply for their animals.

"My dogs are my children, to be quite honest. They are the things that give me the most joy," said Bruce Shepherd, 36, during a two-day trial.

Shepherd said his roommate and business partner, Joey Branham, 25, was "very conscientious" in his day-to-day care for animals.

"He is in love with his dogs. He knows every name, he knows their birth dates," Shepherd said.

But Kim Hurst, president of the Jessamine Humane Society, said the dogs' living conditions were "horrendous." She said photographs taken at the scene "don't begin to convey the kind of torture chambers that was there for these animals."

Jessamine District Court Judge Janet Booth must decide whether Branham and Shepherd are guilty of second-degree animal cruelty, a misdemeanor punishable by 12 months in jail and a $500 fine. Even if found guilty on all counts, Branham and Shepherd would not serve more than a year in jail, but each could face as much as $22,000 in fines.

After testimony concluded Thursday, Booth indicated she will announce her findings on March 4.

The two men were arrested and charged in August as police confiscated 44 dogs and relocated them to the humane society quarters in Nicholasville. The dogs included Doberman pinschers, miniature pinschers, poodles, Chihuahuas, Jack Russell terriers, Pomeranians and a Shih Tub.

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