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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Maui couple faces prison for cruelty to animals

By Christie Wilson
Neighbor Island Editor

WAILUKU, Maui — A Ha'iku couple has been charged with 85 counts of animal cruelty for keeping nearly 100 dogs and cats in squalid conditions in their home.

Jean Bermudez insists her pets were well cared for.

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In a case that attracted widespread attention, animal control officers removed 81 dogs and 14 cats from the West Lelehuna Place home of Tim and Jean Bermudez on Jan. 4 after Jean Bermudez called for assistance because the dogs were fighting. Another dog was found dead inside the house from being mauled.

All but seven of the animals were euthanized because of poor health or lack of space at the Maui Humane Society animal shelter in Pu'unene.

One of the cats and two of the dogs were adopted, and four dogs are still awaiting new homes.

The criminal complaint against the Bermudezes was filed Friday in Wailuku District Court, with arraignment set for May 28. Each misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Jean Bermudez said yesterday that she was advised by her attorney not to comment on the charges.

In previous statements, she said she provided a loving home for the animals but agreed that matters had gotten out of control after the dogs were allowed to breed over a number of years.

Her attorney, David Sereno, could not be reached yesterday.

These two dogs were among 81 removed from a Ha'iku home by animal control officers on Maui.

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The deputy prosecutor involved in the case was not available to comment on why the number of animal cruelty charges falls short of the 96 dogs and cats involved in the case. Animal Control Supervisor Aimee Anderson of the Maui Humane Society said yesterday it might be because amid all the confusion, animal control officers did not take photographs of every animal when they were removed from the Ha'iku home.

The Maui animal cruelty case may be the biggest in Hawai'i history in terms of number of charges filed, although other cases have involved more animals.

Keith Pocock, executive director of the Maui Humane Society, yesterday said there is little satisfaction to be gleaned from the filing of criminal charges against the Bermudezes. "That it got this far after we offered them this much help is sad for us," he said. "We hope it makes an impression on people that these kinds of things don't have to happen."

Pocock said the agency had made arrangements to spay or neuter the Bermudezes' animals for free, but they didn't keep the appointments.

It took animal control officers 10 hours to remove the pets from the three-bedroom home. At the time, Anderson described it as "a dungeon of horrors." The dogs, including a number of puppies, were kept inside rooms that were partitioned into pens. The cats were kept in kitchen cabinets that had been converted into cages.

Animal control officers reported the floors were covered in animal feces and puddles of urine, but Jean Bermudez has insisted that her pets were well cared for and loved.

For years, neighbors had complained about loud barking and foul odors from the Bermudez home, but health, police and Humane Society officials said nothing could be done since there was no visible evidence of the problem from outside the house and the owners would not allow investigators onto the property.

Reach Christie Wilson at cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 244-4880.