Roberta "Kiki" Bugenig, John and Stacy Malcolm, and Roger Zampatti 13 dogs found alive - rescued, many more found dead Mad River, CA Trinity County August 11, 2006
Roberta "Kiki" Bugenig 61 dogs and a horse mistreated Bridgeville, CA  Humboldt County January, 2004

  (Photo courtesy of Heather Muller/The Eureka Reporter - Shannon Miranda comforts one of the rescued dogs)   Shannon Miranda, of Miranda’s Animal Rescue in Fortuna, found 13 dogs alive in grisly conditions in Mad River, along Highway 36 in Trinity Count on Friday, August 11th.  Most of the animals had been locked in kennels and were so starved that they had eaten as many as three dozen other dogs to stay alive.

Shannon stated the conditions were like a dungeon.  There were body parts everywhere. One dog had four carcasses in his kennel.  Miranda’s partner, Den Paris, videotaped the capture of the survivors from kennels littered with bones and piles of fur.  The video shows one dog dead, shoved into a 5-gallon bucket and thrown onto a garbage heap.  Another dog, which Miranda estimated had died only the previous day, lay on its side in the dirt next to an empty food container.

The owner of the animals (Roberta Bugenig) is incarcerated on unrelated charge.  Miranda stated that she used to be a good breeder, getting a lot of money for her dogs.  He also stated that charges might be filed in Trinity County against the people who were supposed to be caring for the dogs during the owner’s absence.

Stephen Frick, a U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Agent from the Mad River District of the Six Rivers National Forest, assisted Miranda with the rescue.  Miranda brought two of the dogs back to the rescue from a trip to a veterinarian on Saturday. Most of the dogs are cattle dogs that should weigh 50-60 pounds. All of them now weight less than half that amount. Most of the dogs were just bones.

Miranda stated that his first job would be to nurse the dogs back to health. One of the 13 had to euthanized and another might not survive. Almost all will require medical treatment and even then, some will still have problems. 

Update August 15, 2006:

  (Photo courtesy of Heather Muller/The Eureka Reporter - remains of an estimated 10-15 dogs were found)  A few miles beyond Mad River is the former home of Roberta Bugenig where dozens of her previously prized cattle dogs were found dead and dying in and around a garbage-strewn labyrinth of kennels that fringe much of the property.  The dogs looked like they had not eaten in months – with the exception of a few that appeared to have eaten what remained of dozens of dogs that had died in kennels with them.

Miranda headed farther up the road to a spot a local resident claimed there was a mass dog grave. The resident stated the dogs had been there since April. Miranda eventually located the dumpsite and spent more than an hour picking through the remains of 10 to 15 dogs at the site which was down a steep ravine just a few yards off Highway 36. Additional remains were found scattered throughout the woodlands and most of the dogs appeared to have been shot in the face.

  (Photo courtesy of Heather Muller/The Eureka Reporter - Miranda examines the remains of a dog carcass)  Miranda later learned that this was the second dog dump found near Mad River; the first was located 2-1/2 weeks earlier off South Fork Mountain Road. Little remained but bone and fur of the animals, but the size and distinctive black-and-brown coloring of the dogs were consistent with the ones rescued from the kennels.

U.S. Forest Service Information Assistant Steve Pollard stated the Bugenig was the product of an earlier era. Bugenig told The Eureka Reporter earlier this year that law enforcement agents had come to her home to force her to move off land she considered rightfully hers. She stated she had purchased the property with money from an inheritance other members of her family did not think belonged to her. Pollard stated that she was being evicted. Bugenig brandished a weapon at Trinity County Sheriff’s Deputies long enough to get herself arrested, tried, convicted and sent to prison for up to five years.

A resident whose name was not disclosed, stated that when the probate dispute began, Bugenig made arrangements with two Mad River residents – John and Stacy Malcolm – to transfer ownership of the animals, which then included a horse, sheep and an unknown number of dogs for $20. If the timeframe is correct, the dogs were dumped at the second location before Bugenig was locked up. Miranda stated both Bugenig and the Malcolm's are to blame.

Miranda stated that only three to four months after Bugenig was incarcerated, the situation got worse. The dogs Miranda rescued on Friday, August 18th, were little more than fur, skin and bones. Miranda believes there were close to 100 dogs. He had found 10 carcasses in just two kennels and there were around 15 kennels. He also found 13 living dogs, one of which could not be saved. There were the bones and fur of dozens of other dogs in the kennels, plus the two dump sites found to date.

Animal Control Officer, Sheriff Deputy Christine Edwards stated she knew Bugenig had too many dogs and kept after her to bring the numbers down and was told that would happen. After Bugenig was out of the picture, Edwards stated that she followed up repeatedly with Stacy Malcolm. Malcolm insisted that everything was OK with the animals and with the gate always locked, Edwards could only see the property from the road and saw the dogs running around and to her it seemed that everything was okay.

Update August 23, 2006:

As the Trinity County District Attorney’s Office reviews the numerous documents that have been submitted in the Mad River animal abuse case, one report is likely to rise to the top of the stack. It was submitted on Tuesday, August 22nd to the DA’s Office by Shannon Miranda, owner and operator of Miranda’s Animal Rescue in Fortuna, and describes in sometimes graphic detail what he called “the most horrific case of abuse and neglect he had ever seen.”

Miranda was called to the former property of Roberta “Kiki” Bugenig August. 10 after Steve Frick, a law enforcement agent from the U.S. Forest Service, found seven barrels containing the remains of dead dogs dumped on federal land and traced them back to the residence.

Miranda’s three-page report documents numerous missed opportunities to rescue the animals earlier, because the people responsible for their care, identified in the report as John and Stacy Malcolm, allegedly canceled appointments to surrender the dogs. Miranda said that Stacy told him on at least two occasions that the dogs were “fine.”

On July 31, 2006Miranda’s report indicated that he told Stacy that Humboldt County Public Guardian Ramon Herrera, who owned the property in trust, and Daniel Cooper, Herrera’s attorney, had told Miranda that the dogs were “skinny and not being fed.” Miranda stated that Stacy assured him that the dogs were fine and that she feeds them herself once daily and sometimes she went twice a day. This statement is likely to play an important role in the possible criminal case against the Malcolm's, after their defense attorney Timothy Noel Gray said in a news release issued last week that a fence-builder identified only as “Roger” had been responsible for the dogs’ care.

On Aug. 10, 2006 - 10 days after the last missed appointment, according to the report, Miranda received a phone call from Stacy asking when he could come get these dogs. She said there are dead ones, they’re dying and she didn’t know what’s going on. She stated she thought Miranda was finding homes for them - nobody wants them because they are afraid of people, and the deals fell through.”

Miranda described the scene as such - “Upon entering the property, you can see filth, old cars and garbage everywhere. When we approached the first set of kennels, you could see feces everywhere. It … appeared that nothing had been cleaned. There was garbage in and out of the kennels. Walking (farther) down … there were dead dogs, parts and pieces of dogs — skulls, heads, rib cages, spine(s) and many other bones and hair.”

According to the report, it was in this area, which Miranda called “the doggy dungeon,” that he rescued the first dog. “He was extremely fearful of people, severely underweight and extremely dehydrated with large open sores on each side of his hind legs. There was a dead dog in the kennel next to him that had died the day before I got there, clearly of starvation and dehydration.”

The second dog, Miranda wrote, “was in a large kennel (that) appeared to have housed five more dogs at one time judging by the amount of hair and piles of bones in the kennel. … “I stood in amazement as to what I was seeing. I’ve been doing rescue work for 11 years, and this clearly is the worst abuse and neglect case I’ve ever witnessed. I was praying that the rest of the dogs were in better shape than the two dogs I just found.”

Three additional dogs were found in kennels behind the house. “Once again, neither food nor water was present.” One dog was described as “very underweight. You could see her backbone and rib cage and could also see that the dog was pregnant.” A blind dog was found under a trailer on the property. Another was in a 55-gallon barrel behind the house.

The seventh dog rescued Aug. 11th. “did not move as I approached,” Miranda wrote in a report submitted Tuesday to the Trinity County District Attorney’s Office. The dog turned out to be blind.

“When I pulled the dog out, she just collapsed. She was so sick from starvation and dehydration that she could not walk.” According to the report, Miranda had to carry her to the truck.

“Most of the dogs were emaciated and had feces on them from their living conditions,” he wrote. “All of them were underweight with the worst flea infestation I’ve ever seen. The dogs were put in the trailer and taken to Ferndale Veterinary. Two of the dogs were kept overnight on IV fluids. The other dogs were examined and I was advised to euthanize one older female dog that was really in terrible shape. She was beyond help.

The report includes an account of Miranda’s two subsequent trips to Mad River, which occurred after The Eureka Reporter received two separate anonymous tips providing the locations of two dog dumps on South Fork Mountain near Mad River.

“The first one was right on the main road at a turn-off. The dogs matched those that I rescued from Kiki’s property,” the report stated.

    (Photo courtesy of Heather Muller/The Eureka Reporter - the contents of barrels examined)  The second dumpsite contained “seven blue barrels, the exact same ones that were present on Kiki’s property. I pulled at least 10 dogs from the barrels. These dogs also matched the ones found on Kiki’s property. You could clearly see that some of the dogs had bullet holes in their skulls and others had been bludgeoned to death due to the blunt force trauma to the skull bone. I can only assume that the rest starved to death.”

Trinity County Deputy District Attorney Eric Heryford said he expects charges against the Malcolm's and a third subject to be announced soon.

One of many questions related to the Mad River dog abuse scandal resurfaced again when comments made by Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos were challenged by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a national nonprofit organization that works to ensure the enforcement of state and federal animal protection laws.

On Wednesday, Gallegos said in a phone interview that he stood by decisions made by his office not to file 123 charges against Roberta Bugenig that had been requested in 2004 by deputies and animal control officers from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, who found at least 62 dogs and a horse living in questionable conditions at Bugenig’s Bridgeville residence.

Dozens of Bugenig’s former animals, which included horses, sheep, goats and an unknown number of dogs, died or were killed after Bugenig left Bridgeville and moved less than five miles across the Trinity County line near Mad River.

Subsequent to the move, according to the Malcolm's’ defense attorney, Bugenig transferred ownership of the animals to John and Stacy Malcolm, who now have been charged in Trinity County, along with a third subject, Roger Zampatti, with 16 felony counts each of alleged animal cruelty.

While it is impossible to know whether the filing of the 2004 charges against Bugenig in Humboldt County would have prevented the Mad River tragedy, Gallegos said charges could not have been filed because evidence in the case did not demonstrate “an aspect of intent to the neglect,” which, he said, would have been necessary for the case to proceed.

But not so, said representatives of the ALDF.  ALDF Director of Education Eileen Stark stated in an e-mail that the organization could not comment on the specific merits of the 2004 case against Bugenig because it did not have access to evidence that was submitted.

“However,” she wrote, “regarding Mr. Gallegos’ comment that they couldn’t demonstrate intent in the 2004 charges, ALDF attorneys advise me that, under California law, assuming adequate evidence, an animal neglect charge does not require intentional conduct. It should be fairly easy to prove as it requires minimal criminal culpability.”

The Eureka Reporter spoke with one of those attorneys, Stephan Otto, who said that the statute under which the felony charge was requested, Penal Code 597(b), requires “a low burden of proof.”

According to Otto, “What the courts have said, and they’ve been quite clear on this issue, is that (the statute) requires proof of criminal negligence, which is the lowest level of criminal culpability under the law. It’s one step up from strict liability, in which you have to show no criminal intent at all.”

To win a conviction under PC 597(b), Otto said, the DA’s Office would have needed to convince a jury only that the conditions of the horse represented a departure from “the ordinary standard of due care,” regardless of whether that departure was intentional.  When presented with the ALDF statements, Gallegos stood his ground.

“I know exactly what the law is, and I know what the difficulty is with those cases,” he said. “If we thought there was sufficient evidence to move forward and thought that there was a likelihood of success, we would have filed the case.”

According to Gallegos, conviction depends on the circumstances of the case and the quality of the evidence presented.

Charges requested by deputies included 61 misdemeanor violations for alleged failure to provide proof of legal rabies vaccinations, 61 misdemeanor violations for alleged failure to license the dogs, and one felony count alleging failure to care for a horse, whose poor health and substandard living conditions were graphically documented in a series of investigative reports, photographs and a videotape.

In the reports, one deputy described the horse as thin, blind and suffering from severe foot problems.

“The front feet were grown out and curved up. The heels of all the feet appeared to be rotted or worn off and appeared to cause pain. The horse at times appeared to be putting weight on its leg, not the hoof. The mound the horse was standing on was a buildup of manure … soaked with urine.”

The dogs, according to the reports, were living in kennels filled with mud, with 55-gallon barrels serving as shelter.

“The smallest kennel had two or more dogs in it and one barrel. Some dogs … appeared to be unable to move without extreme effort and in obvious pain,” the report stated.

The same deputy documented conditions at the Bridgeville property after the animals had been moved to Mad River.

“The pile of manure looked to be about 2.5 to 3 feet deep. I placed a 3-pound coffee can nearby in a hole where the shelter had sat, and took a picture to show the depth of the manure.

“I also took photos of the area where the kennels had been. Now that the kennels are gone, you can see how deep the mud was during the winter in the small kennel. The videotape, booked into evidence …, will show how much room the animals had inside the kennel and the barrel they had to get into.”

The horse, named Lucky, eventually died at Bugenig’s former Mad River residence. Dozens of dogs were found dead or dying at the property earlier this month, and at least 20 more, all dead, were found at two dump sites Trinity County investigators have linked back to the residence.

The ALDF contacted The Eureka Reporter on Friday, after having been contacted by Barbara Shults, director of the North Coast Animal Welfare Advocacy Center, seeking a second opinion on the legal argument.

Gallegos’ campaign Web site, www.votepaul.org, lists Shults as a supporter of his successful 2006 bid for re-election.

“I’ve been an avid supporter of (Gallegos) from the get-go, but now I’m just really disgusted with him,” Shults said.

“What kind of precedent does this set for the community? Does it tell people who might harm animals that they can get away with it?”

Under the terms of the penal code, the statute of limitations on the 122 alleged misdemeanor violations has expired, but Gallegos could legally proceed with the alleged felony.

When asked if there was a chance he would reconsider the charging decision, he said, “Based on politics? Extremely remote. But in all candor to you and everyone else, I will take another look at the file. I will look at it again based on the evidence that is available.” But the outcome, he said, is likely to be the same.

“I will give deference to my deputy’s decision,” he said, referring to Assistant District Attorney Wes Keat, who Gallegos said originally rejected the felony case, “and I certainly am not going to make a decision based on politics.”

“It’s still not too late for Paul to do the right thing here,” said Shannon Miranda, owner and operator of Miranda’s Animal Rescue in Fortuna, and one of six people who rescued 13 surviving dogs from the Mad River property on Aug. 11.

“File the charge now,” Miranda said.  To that end, the ALDF offered its assistance.

“We urge that a very thorough investigation be performed — in both counties — so that appropriate charges can be filed in this case,” Stark wrote. “We are offering our free assistance to the prosecutors in both counties, and we are available for advice on the investigations as well.”

Press Release – August 30, 2006
National, international animal groups weigh in on abuse scandal

Thirteen dogs were rescued Aug. 11 from the former Mad River property of Roberta Bugenig. Two of the dogs had to be euthanized, and eight others are still looking for caring homes.

At least three major animal welfare organizations have declared their active involvement in the Mad River animal abuse cases that have rocked Trinity and Humboldt counties.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have offered their services to law enforcement officials in both counties, and have been working behind the scenes to assist officials struggling to deal with the legal issues — and public relations disaster — that have arisen from the discovery of dozens of dead dogs and other animals found at three locations near Mad River.

“This is a very disturbing case,” said Stephanie Bell, a cruelty caseworker from PETA, the Virginia-based international animal rights organization that has been quietly involved in the case for more than a week.

“One of our biggest concerns … is the prolonged substandard conditions these animals were apparently subjected to, and we are very interested in finding out why it took officials so long to get help for these animals. It is our understanding that Trinity County officials were made aware of these animals in June of 2004, and it is extremely disturbing to us that these animals did not get the help they so desperately needed until August of 2006, more than two years later,” Bell said.

Known the world over for its nude photos of supermodels (“I’d rather go naked than wear fur”) and its guerilla-theater tactics — including the splashing of paint on wearers of expensive furs — the sometimes controversial organization has taken a decidedly measured approach to these cases.

“We generally don’t take action on cases that are reported to us until we have all of the facts at our fingertips, so that we can know how best to proceed,” Bell said. “Without factual and accurate information, we can’t weigh in in a helpful manner.”

Bell said she had been in contact with officials from the Trinity County District Attorney’s Office. “They have been very responsive to my phone calls,” she said.

But Bell added that she would like to see action taken in Humboldt County as well.

“We are heartened by the fact that charges have been filed in Trinity County, and that additional charges may be pending. We certainly believe, based on the information that we’ve seen … to date, that felony cruelty to animal charges are merited. We also would like to see charges pursued in Humboldt County based on the condition of an apparently emaciated blind horse found on the (Roberta) Bugenig property in June of 2004, and we will be contacting Humboldt County officials about that matter.”

That point was seconded by Paul Bruce from the Humane Society of the United States.

“Trinity County Animal Control obviously dropped the ball, but the Humboldt County District Attorney certainly could have filed charges and maybe got this thing resolved before it got as bad as it did,” said Bruce, who is the regional program coordinator for the HSUS’s West Coast regional office.

“Things were handled horribly,” he said, adding that both Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos and Trinity County Animal Control Officer Christine Edwards would be the recipients of two of “many” letters he plans to write.

“Of cases we’ve known about, this one’s pretty horrific,” Bruce said. “When you throw in the horrible fact of dogs cannibalizing each other to stay alive, that leads us to believe this situation is worthy of a lot more attention than it’s been getting.”

As previously reported in The Eureka Reporter, Gallegos said Monday that he would reconsider a felony animal cruelty charge against Bugenig that had been rejected by his office in 2004.

While residing in Bridgeville in 2004, Bugenig owned more than 60 animals, many of which are believed to have died or been killed near Mad River after she reportedly moved across the county line in June of that year.

Gallegos’ announcement came on the heels of a challenge by attorneys from the Animal Legal Defense Fund to his interpretation of the legal statute under which a felony charge against Bugenig had been requested by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.

In an e-mail Friday to The Eureka Reporter, Eileen Stark, the ALDF’s director of education, stated, “We urge that a very thorough investigation be performed — in both counties — so that appropriate charges can be filed in this case. We are offering our free assistance to the prosecutors in both counties, and we are available for advice on the investigations as well.”

And PETA has not yet ruled out direct action in the cases.

“We don’t know what’s going to come to pass,” Bell said. “We will continue to make decisions as information becomes available.

“What I can definitively tell you is that we have been and will continue to monitor this case very, very closely. We want to make sure justice is served.”

For more information about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, visit www.peta.org. For information about the Humane Society of the United States, visit www.hsus.org. For the Animal Legal Defense Fund, visit www.aldf.org.

Timothy Gray, attorney for John and Stacy Malcolm, stated that the couple accused of 16 felony counts each in an animal abuse case, will surrender to Trinity County authorities today. Earlier in the week, the District Attorney’s Office requested arrest warrants be issued for the couple that took over the animals when their owner was taken into custody on unrelated charges. Roger Zampatti, who the Malcolm's attorney said began taking care of the animals around June, was also charged.

Last month, Shannon Miranda of Miranda's Rescue removed 13 dogs that appeared to be starving from the Mad River property where Zampatti was said to be living.

The three suspects face 16 counts of felony animal abuse, which carry a maximum sentence of three years per charge if convicted, and one charge of felony marijuana cultivation for plants found at the Mad River house during the investigation. No attorney was known for Zampatti.

  (Photo courtesy of Tyson Ritter/The Eureka Reporter - Melissa Norwood shows Leah, one of the rescued dogs up for adoption).

  Photo courtesy of Heather Muller/The Eureka Reporter - dog rescued from kennels near Mad River gets a little love ).

  (Photo courtesy of Katie O'Neill/The Eureka Reporter - Miranda gives a lift to a blind rescued dog).    One of the dogs is blind and in need of a seeing-eye human to adopt him.

Update October 13, 2006:

  (Photo courtesy of Tyson Ritter/The Eureka Reporter - John Malcolm standing outside the courthouse)  Only 1 witness was called at the preliminary hearing of John and Stacy Malcolm and Roger Zampatti.

Steve Frick, formerly a law enforcement agent for the US Forest Service, now a special agent for the agency was cross-examined for approximately 2 hours by Trinity County Deputy District Attorney Eric Heryford, the Malcolm's attorney Timothy Noel Gray and Zampatti's public defender Derrick Riske.

Trinity County Superior Court Judge James Woodward concluded that there was sufficient evidence of the case to proceed.

"I find there's probable cause to believe that 41 counts of animal abuse occurred, and probable cause to believe the 3 defendants are involved in that violation" at the conclusion of the hearing in Weaverville.

Just 2 hours before the hearing 2 of the 13 rescued dogs were euthanized because of continued deterioration of their physical and mental conditions.  "One was ripping his own sides open and chewing himself bloody, stated Shannon Miranda and the other was trying to tear off her own legs".

Right after the rescue 2 were euthanized immediately and one was euthanized after he began injuring himself by pummeling his head against the wooden sides of a barn stall.  4 dogs have found homes and are doing well.  4 more dogs remain at Miranda's Rescue.

At the hearing it was revealed that 3 more dead dog skulls and bones were fund in a creek drainage behind the former Bugenig house.  Also entered into evidence was a hand written note dated March 15, 2005 transferring ownership of the dogs from Bugenig to Stacy Malcolm - this date is the day Bugenig was forcibly evicted from the property. 

Update October 21, 2006:

(Photo courtesy of North Coast Journal - photo of Pal Gallegos)    Gallegos said he will not file charges against Bugenig for her alleged mistreatment of a horse in 2004.  123 charges were requested by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office in 2004, for failure to care for the horse.

Update November 1, 2006:

Bugenig was released from jail after serving 8 months of a 16-month sentence in the Chowchilla women's prison to 3 years supervised parole in Shasta County.

Bugenig, age 65, was convicted of 4 felonies after brandishing a firearm at 4 Trinity County peace officers in 2005.  She was originally sentenced to 4 consecutive 16-month terms but it was later determined that by law she could be sentenced to only 1 16-month period, because all 4 offenses stemmed from a single act.  With time deducted for good behavior, the sentence was reduced to 8 months total, which ended October 29, 2006.  Bugenig will not be allowed to own any animals during the next 3 years.

Update June 26, 2007:

Bugenig is back in jail after violating the terms of her parole by allegedly beating a horse with a saw.  Bugenig has not been charged with animal cruelty only a parole violation at this time.  She is in the Madera Women's Center with an expected release date on 7/19/07.

The animal cruelty trial for the Malcolms and Zampatti is tentatively scheduled for August 21, 2007.

Reference:

The Eureka Reporter

Times Standard

Associated Press

The Hoopa People

The North Coast Journal