NEW YORK (AP) — Seemingly neglected caged dogs and other animals were found in the foul-smelling, garbage-filled home of the New York couple arrested and charged with beating their two teenage sons, one fatally, said an animal advocate who rescued the pets.
Kimberly Strong, founder of Lainey’s Army, an animal advocacy group based in central New York, said the home of Bruce and Deborah Leonard — now under arrested — had four neglected dogs, three birds and several cats in and around their home. Feces and urine were everywhere, she said.
"Conditions in the house were abhorrent; it smelled to knock you out," Strong said Sunday.
Strong said neighbors concerned about the animals called her earlier last week and she alerted authorities. On Thursday, a few days after the couple was arrested and charged — she walked through the home with Clayville animal control officer Gordon Chafee and a New York state trooper, she said.
New York State Police did not return calls for comment on why authorities did not make arrangements for the animals earlier.
"I saw a female dog running loose with a big macaw and the cats," she said. "And I saw a Rottweiler and a beagle locked in basement cages."
Chafee said it was plain to see the animals needed help. But also, he said, there was "trash everywhere" in the home.
"It was a terrible experience," Chafee said. "I don’t see how human beings could live in this house, because it was just so unhealthy. And the smell of urine made my eyes smart."
Strong told the Syracuse Post-Standard, where an article about the animals first appeared, she believed the home’s condition predates the couple’s arrest.
"That’s not a one-day thing," she told the paper. "That’s not a one-week thing."
All of the animals are now in foster care, she said.
The arrests in New Hartford, a town of 22,000 people, have thrown a spotlight on the regimented and insular Word of Life Christian Church that operated from a red-brick former school that also served as a communal home for several members.
The Leonards face charges — including manslaughter — for brutally beating their two sons in the church on Oct. 11. Their son, Lucas Leonard, 19, died from his injuries. His brother, 17-year-old Christopher Leonard, remained hospitalized.
Four others face charges in the deadly brawl that police said arose out of a "counseling session" that may have been related to Lucas Leonard wanting to leave the church.
All six have pleaded not guilty.
Bruce Leonard’s attorney said prosecutors hadn’t proved the couple intended serious injuries to their son.
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