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W.Va. man charged with 141 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty

July 09, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Falling Waters, W.Va., man accused of mistreating more than 130 dogs and several cats was charged with 141 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

Rocky Del Trolio, 54, of 64 Slate Lane, was arraigned on the charges Monday by Magistrate Jim Humphrey shortly after a seizure hearing was held by the magistrate at Trolio’s request.

Humphrey upheld the county’s decision to remove the animals June 19 from Trolio’s home after hearing testimony from Berkeley County Animal Control officer Kevin Jones and Trolio, who testified without an attorney.

At the end of the seizure hearing, a $11,226 bond was set to cover the cost of the animals’ care for 30 days. The animals have been in the county’s custody since they were seized June 19 and will remain so until the misdemeanor case is resolved, according to Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Saunders.
 
Trolio was released on $42,300 bond after Humphrey arraigned him on the misdemeanor charges, according to court records.

Jones testified that animals at the split-level home were found extremely dehydrated, underweight and with mange, a skin disease. Their fur was matted with feces, Jones said.

There were 133 dogs and 10 cats at the residence where Trolio and his wife reside, Jones testified. His wife, who has not been charged, told authorities she had no involvement with the animals.

One dog, which was bleeding severely from a gash on its neck, had to be put down at the home after authorities arrived with a search warrant, Jones testified.

Two or three dogs had to be euthanized due to their condition, said Jones, who recounted how authorities found large amounts of feces and urine as they entered the home and also on the walls, television, countertops and stove in other areas of the residence.

Jones said they didn’t find any food, water bowls or litter boxes for the animals in the house. About half of the dogs were deemed underweight after being examined by a veterinarian, Jones said.

On the witness stand, Trolio insisted that he fed and gave water to the dogs every day, and allowed the canines to run outside before taking them back into the house each night.

Trolio testified he spent $15,000 on dog food.

The number of dogs Trolio said he was caring for began to grow last year and “it got to the point where we needed help.”

Trolio said people would ask him to take care of the animals temporarily and come back to get them.

He said he posted advertisements and gave a lot of dogs away, but said he started getting more than he could give away.

Trolio also indicated he called Berkeley County Animal Control and animal-protection groups for help, but didn’t get any response from anyone.

“I begged everyone for help,” Trolio said. “I begged and I pleaded.”

Jones said he did not have any such conversation with Trolio prior to the seizure of the animals, but couldn’t say whether other animal control officers might have spoken with Trolio.

Trolio said only four of the animals actually belonged to him, but acknowledged he had possession of the others.

In his complaint against Trolio, Berkeley County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael St. Clair indicated he heard what sounded like dogs fighting when he and animal control officers arrived to execute the search warrant.

Once the dogs calmed down, an animal control officer who entered the home returned with a wounded dog that was bleeding profusely from the neck and appeared to be in shock, according to court documents. St. Clair put the animal down with his duty weapon, according to court documents.
 
St. Clair indicated that every room he entered had feces on the floor and Trolio’s wife was trying to clean it up with a large farm shovel, according to court documents.

“There (was) even feces on the stove and the burner holes (were) filled with feces,” St. Clair said. “The smell in the residence was unbearable.”

St. Clair said there were 132 canines and eight felines removed from the property by animal control, and one dog was so old he couldn’t walk, according to court documents.

Jones said there were three or four litters of puppies and multiple pregnant dogs. Puppies were found in cardboard boxes and crates, according to court documents.

The June 19 seizure came after Berkeley County Animal Control received a complaint from the Humane Society of the United States. The animal protection organization said a puppy it obtained from the home was in “deplorable condition.”

“He had fleas, matted fur with feces, scabs on his abdomen, was underweight and dehydrated, and suffered from intestinal parasites,” the organization said in a news release.

The Humane Society of the United States said it received a complaint about sick puppies being sold from the property, which was linked to advertisements on Craigslist, and sent investigators to the property.

The humane society reported a foul odor coming from the home, and noted feces was found on the floor and on 10 to 12 dogs that were loose inside the home, police have said.

Animal control officers who responded to the home to investigate several complaints were not allowed in the home, according to court documents.

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