In Lowell District Court on Thursday, Michael D. Russo, of 206 Shoreline Drive, Tewksbury was released on personal recognizance after pleading not guilty to four counts of animal cruelty.
While prosecutors sought to have Russo voluntarily surrender his two dogs - a 10-year-old Yorkshire Terrier named "Emmie"" and "Duke" a 2-year-old German Shephard - to foster care, Russo refused. The dogs will remain in the town's kennel.
Tewksbury police were familiar with the dogs from an incident the previous summer where officials found that Russo's rented trailer was littered with animal and human feces.
The trailer was deemed inhabitable and Russo was forced to temporarily move out until the home could be cleaned. The dogs were cared for by the town.
By September, the trailer was cleaned up and Russo moved back home with his animals.
But police say that by December, the trailer was again uninhabitable. Officials allege the trailer was filled with feces and garbage.
The Tewksbury Board of Health and Elder Services were called in.
To enter the property, investigators has to wear hazardous material suits, police say.
There was a "putrid smell" that made it difficult to breathe, police say.
The dogs were allegedly covered in filth and there were two bird cages that held six parakeets and a number of finches.
The cages were filled with bird droppings and there was no clean water.
Russo has been in and out of the hospital, and is unable to care for his animals, police allege.
The care, feeding and veterinary bills for his animals is currently at $7,000, according to prodecutor Noah Ertel. Russo wouldn't have to pay if he relinquished ownership of his animals.
But standing before Judge Thomas Brennan, Russo, who is currently living in a rehab, refused to relinquish ownership of his animals. The animals remain in the town's care.
Russo is scheduled for a pretrial conference on March 10.
(Tewskbury Patch - Feb 16, 2017)