Trinity Co. Dog Abuse Case - Not Guilty Verdicts for 2, Zampatti Sentenced
Posted on September 27, 2006
(3/4/08) Unfortunately, a jury rendered a not guilty verdict, acquitting John and Stacy Malcolm of all 82 felony counts of animal cruelty. Previously pleading guilty to one count of felony animal cruelty, Roger Zampatti agreed to offer testimony against the Malcolms as part his plea negotiation. He was sentenced on January 9, 2008 and is to serve 90 days in jail (electronic monitoring approved) with credit for 1 day served, be on 3 years of probation, and pay court fees and approximately $570.00 in restitution. The Malcolm’s jury trial began on September 18, 2007 - here are two news articles on the proceedings:
Defendants in Mad River dog case found not guilty
Two stand trial in connection to Mad River dog abuse case
(Eureka, California) In 2004, 122 animal-related charges against a woman accused of
seriously neglecting her animals were rejected by the District Attorney
in Humboldt County. Charges were requested by Humboldt County Sheriff’s
Office against Roberta Bugenig, now 65, after a January 2004
investigation revealed alleged ill treatment of at least 61 dogs and a
horse under Bugenig’s care. Bugenig reportedly owned as many as 100
horses, sheep, goats, dogs and other animals. At the time, officers
found dozens of unsocialized dogs chained up or kept in filthy
chain-link kennels, with 55-gallon drums used as dog houses for some.
Officers returned to the residence periodically and found dogs that had
not been at the property in January.
In June of the same year, deputies responded to another report of cruelty and again a case was referred to the DA’s office. This occurred when Bugenig was being evicted from the premises and some of the dogs remained behind. At least one chained dog appeared to be injured and all were in filthy kennels with dirty water full of mosquito larvae. A blind horse, named Lucky, who had been seen earlier, was noticed to have dropped drastically in weight. On closer inspection, Lucky was found to have severely deformed feet and appeared to be "standing back on its (heels)." He could not walk and was observed to rotate a foot "extremely to the side." Lucky was thought to have been standing on a mound of earth, when in fact he was standing on a huge pile of his own waste, likely due to his painful condition and inability to move. A pre-seizure notice was posted by a deputy on June 5 for the animal to be checked by a veterinarian.
Bugenig herself had moved to a Mad River property in Trinity County and a Trinity County animal control official was notified about her. On June 9, deputies found that she had moved all the animals in Humboldt County to Trinity County. A request for prosecution for failing to provide care (a felony offense) and for failing to license and vaccinate her dogs was sent to the DA’s office around that time. No action taken by the DA’s office. Lucky eventually died at the Mad River property.
ALDF learned of this case in August of 2006 when a concerned resident contacted ALDF after it was publicized that two mass dog graves had been found near Mad River in April 2006. Bugenig, now in prison for threatening deputies with a rifle during another eviction, had made arrangements with two Mad River residents, John and Stacy Malcolm to take possession of the dogs for $20, although the dogs were reportedly transferred to the Malcolm’s care seven months before her prison term.
In addition to the remains of 40 or 50 dogs seen in April, seven blue barrels containing another 10 or 11 dead dogs and a sheep skull were found in July in a forest near Mad River. The animals had been shot in the head or appeared to have been killed by "blunt-force trauma to the head." In August, a U.S. Forest Service agent traced the barrels to the Bugenig kennels and found more dead and dying dogs on the property, many of which appeared to have survived by cannibalizing those that had died. Thirteen surviving dogs were rescued; two had to be euthanized. One of those euthanized had been found in a kennel with five dead dogs; he had to be euthanized for severe psychological problems. Later, two additional rescued dogs reportedly had to be euthanized due to severe self-mutilation.
The Eureka Reporter published several investigative articles in August 2006 that uncovered the animal abuse scandal, including information proving that the Humboldt County sheriff’s office recommended that Bugenig be charged with 123 counts of animal cruelty in 2004. ALDF contacted the reporter and on August 30, in a Eureka Reporter article, ALDF questions District Attorney Paul Gallegos’ refusal to charge Bugenig in 2004 and refutes his claim that "an aspect of intent" must be demonstrated for the case to proceed. Indeed, under California Penal Code 597(b), under which the felony charge was requested (for the horse), the statute requires a low burden of proof. In fact, all that would be needed to convince a jury would be that the conditions of the horse did not fall under "the ordinary standard of due care." It does not require intent. Furthermore, California law allows for animals, neglected to the extent that Lucky reportedly was, to be seized and put up for adoption if the owner does not pay the costs of care within 10 days. Had Lucky been seized when his condition was recognized and documented, he may have received the treatment and care he needed.
ALDF offered free legal assistance to the DAs in both counties on these cases and any other animal cruelty case in their jurisdiction.
On October 18, 2006, District Attorney Paul Gallegos stated he would not be filing any cruelty charges against Roberta Bugenig. Many thanks to those who wrote to the D.A. and the Eureka Reporter on this issue. The Eureka Reporter has published several articles on the case including these:
John and Stacy Malcolm, and Roger Zampatti were charged in Trinity County in connection with the discovery of many dead and dying dogs on and around the former property of Bugenig. Trinity Superior Court Judge James Woodward found "probable cause to believe that 41 counts of animal abuse occurred and probable cause to believe the three defendants are involved in that violation," at a preliminary hearing in October 2006.
Trinity County Courthouse
PO Box 1258
11 Court Street
Weaverville, CA 96093
Case #06F125 – A, B and C