Monroe man charged with neglecting animals he boarded in Milford

The latest charges of animal cruelty against a Monroe man who runs an animal rescue operation stem from his boarding of dogs at a Milford kennel.

The owners of Who’s Your Doggie Day Care filed a complaint against Frederick Acker, 61, of Monroe after he allegedly neglected dogs that he boarded at their facility.

Acker was charged with 17 counts of animal cruelty and is scheduled to appear in Milford Superior Court Sept. 13 on the charges.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Melissa and Richie Marter, owners of Who’s Your Doggie Day Care, filed a cruelty to animals complaint with the Department of Agriculture last November.

Acker, who runs the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), had contacted them through the Barter Network website requesting housing for 17 dogs in exchange for 12,000 pounds of food and $6,000 in barter dollars. According to his website, his organization is a “no kill humane organization.” There are numerous photos of dogs up for adoption, though the site states the dogs are located in Norwalk.

A contract that the Milford kennel owners signed outlined that Acker was to provide personnel to care, clean, feed and provide water for the dogs, according to court documents.

However, it wasn’t long before the Marters discovered problems with Acker’s treatment of the animals and tried to do something about it, documents state.

“While on the second level, the Marters stated the animals were housed in small transport crates which are mostly utilized for transporting purposes and not long-term housing,” the warrant states. “The crates were stacked up on top of each other three high. That, after just a few days, the urine and fecal matter accumulated inside and around the dog crates to the point it overflowed to a grated area and dripped down to the first floor.”

The kennel employees began caring for the animals they could care for, though they had a problem giving attention to some of the more aggressive dogs, according to the warrant.

One employee told investigators that she would try to care for and feed the SPCA dogs on a daily basis “because the SPCA employees were rarely there and the dogs were not being properly cared for.”

A woman who worked for Acker told investigators that Acker instructed his employees to take care of the dogs quickly and “get in and out of there” because he didn’t want to pay overtime. Danielle Soltes of Milford, who worked for Acker, said the dogs were only let out once a day for a short period of time. She also told investigators that she told Acker’s manager about the problems and advised that more attention was needed for the animals.

The kennel owners tried to contact Acker numerous times to advise him of the poor conditions, but the conditions did not improve, according to court documents. They eventually had Acker remove the dogs and then filed a complaint with the Department of Agriculture.

The Department of Agriculture has been investigating Acker since 2002 for “importation violations, sales complaints, complaints of sick and injured animals, dirty kennel conditions, specifically no heat, dirty water and poor kennel conditions, that could cause injury to confined animals,” the warrant states.

When he was told to remove the dogs from the Milford kennel, Acker had them taken to a barn in Bethlehem, which a Bethlehem resident trooper searched Nov. 8. Sixty-two dogs were found housed in small crates there without food, water or sufficient heat, according to the warrant, and many of the animals were ill.

Some of the dogs were taken to Milford’s animal shelter.

Acker hasn’t yet entered a plea in connection with the Milford-based charges. His next court date in Milford is Sept. 13.

Last November, Acker was charged with 62 counts of cruelty to animals based on conditions at that Bethlehem barn. He said then that he was innocent of the charges and pleaded not guilty, according to a court website. “We feel we will prevail,” he said. “The truth is on our side. It’s all coming out in court. We anticipate a finding in our favor and getting our animals back.”

Acker’s attorney, Steven Colarossi, has filed a motion to get photographs of the animals that were taken from the barn. Bethlehem Animal Control Officer Judy Umstead reportedly took the photographs as well as notes about the animals.

“The failure to provide this evidence, which is potentially exculpatory in nature, has unduly prejudiced the defendant and thus necessitates a continuation of the trial date,” Colarossi wrote in his Sept. 1 motion.

“Exculpatory evidence” is generally favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial, and may clear or tend to clear the defendant of guilt.

Acker has had a turbulent relationship with town officials in Monroe, where he lives. This has involved incidents with the police as well as with zoning officials. Some neighbors have complained about his shelter operation.

Acker also has some loyal supporters, who insist he is an animal lover determined to save many hard-to-place pets from possibly being euthanized. Some of the animals he rescues are sick or injured.

Acker says the charges against him are fiction.

As for the split between him and the Marters, Acker said the Marters kept changing the terms of their deal.

“Every month they asked for more and more money and wanted to do less and less work,” Acker said.

Acker alleges he is the victim of animal sheltering “turf wars,” and officials abusing their power to damage his operation and to retaliate against him for speaking out about ethical breaches.

Acker’s attorney, Steven A. Colarossi of Norwalk, said he has not received evidence to substantiate the Milford-based charges.

“The affidavit reveals a licensed commercial kennel that failed to provide a basic level of care to animals in its charge,” Colarossi said. “I do not know of another case in which a commercial kennel, such as Who's Your Doggy, would charge an organization to care for animals and then demand that the organization provide the services for which payment was received.”

He said he will be moving for a dismissal of the action and will reserve all claims for civil damages.