Sentence decided for animal cruelty

Keith Chambers will spend at least six months at the county Pre-Release Center for two charges of cruelty to animals.

On June 14, Chambers, 66, of 1611 Bloomingrove Road, was convicted of charges relating to the mistreatment of three horses and 10 dogs on his property following a bench trial before Judge Marc Lovecchio.

On Thursday, Lovecchio sentenced Chambers to six to 15 months of incarceration for the crimes.

Lawrence Woltz, county officer for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, took the animals off the property in December 2011. At trial, the dogs – rottweilers, Doberman pinschers and Yorkshire terriers – all were shown to have matted hair, and some had Lyme disease. The three horses, Appaloosa mares, were shown to have severe rain rot, sores that appear in wet conditions under matted hair.

“The dogs didn’t have anything extra wrong with them that normal dogs don’t have,” Chambers said at his sentencing hearing. “I’ll never have any more animals. No dogs, no parrots, I don’t want any more problems.”

Chambers served as a combat medic in Vietnam. Defense attorney John Piazza asked him if he thought his experiences in combat “made him callous.”

“Something did happen to me,” Chambers said. “People eat dogs in Vietnam. They don’t have the same rights as kids like around here.”

Chambers testified he had a heart attack last month, he’s going through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and he’s helping take care of a 5-month-old granddaughter.

“While everyone’s trying to make me look like the scum of the earth, I used to have nine horses,” he said. “I got rid of everything associated with me two years ago, when my heart started going … if my wife stuck up for me, I must be doing something right.”

Piazza asked the judge to “heavily consider the record of good Mr. Chambers has accomplished,” including defusing a bomb on a C5A cargo plane at Dover Air Force Base in 2000.

“Mr. Chambers has led a pretty exemplary life. If you were to weigh him in the scales of justice he’s done significantly more good than bad,” he said.

After testimony concluded, Lovecchio addressed Chambers: “Your history with the SPCA, it’s deplorable. I have a report from ’76, a husky … it says it had sores, it’s very thin, it looks to be in terminal condition.”

Lovecchio continued to read summaries of three SPCA reports from the 1990s, that includes one in which the agency found 25 puppies “lethargic, their water is green, they’ve got moldy food, the dog in the kennel has its vocal cords cut,” and two reports for the 2000s, including one that read “some dogs were euthanized by putting them in garbage bags, beating them and burning them in burn barrels.”

“An SPCA officer got on the stand and was brought to tears because of dealing with you for 30 years,” Lovecchio said. “That speaks volumes.”

The Chamberses also were sued by the state attorney general’s office in 2001 under the puppy lemon law when they operated Oak Ridge Kennels.

“I don’t buy being in Vietnam, where people eat dogs, somehow allows you an excuse to mistreat dogs here,” Lovecchio said. “I see no expression of remorse. You can’t put your head in the sand and say these animals weren’t suffering. To do what you did is abhorrent.”

While walking out of the courtroom in handcuffs, Chambers mouthed “f*** dogs” at a sheriff’s deputy and his wife said, “You’ll get old, Larry,” to Woltz.