ELLSWORTH, Wis. - A split verdict has come down for the Pierce County, Wisconsin man charged with more than 120 counts of animal cruelty for allegedly mistreating the yellow labs he was breeding.
A jury on Wednesday found Stuart West guilty on 62 counts, including failure to provide adequate shelter, failure to provide food and water and mistreatment of animals. He was found not guilty on another 63 counts. Jurors deliberated for 6 hours.
Reports are that West will be sentenced November 30.
West, 68, of Elmwood, Wisconsin, is accused of running a puppy mill. Charges file against West included intentionally providing improper animal shelter space, improper animal shelter ventilation and intentionally failing to provide food for an animal. In total, there are approximately 125 misdemeanor counts against him.
A total of 48 dogs were removed from his property in April 2016. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says the dogs were living indoors in small, filthy travel crates, with no access to food or water. Numerous deceased animals were also found on the property.
In his closing argument on Wednesday, the Pierce County District Attorney reminded jurors of the conditions investigators found when they arrived at West's property.
"It was striking to me, as a professional behaviorist, that the animals were so passive," said Katherine Miller with the ASPCA. "They were afraid, they were trying to get away, they were trembling."
West took the stand Tuesday to defend his operation and his belief in a raw meat diet telling the jury he fed the dogs deer and cattle carcasses which his attorney, Keith Belzer, admitted was controversial.
"The question is, was he doing something that was criminal under law?" Belzer said. "We've heard expert testimony that that's not appropriate, okay, alright. But he didn't know that. He didn't know that."