The past president of a New Canaan dog rescue group charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty following the discovery of five dead dogs in her home had the charges upgraded to felonies during a hearing in Superior Court this week.
Heidi Lueders, 31, of New Canaan, was first arrested for the crimes following the discovery of five dead dogs in crates at a Fairfield home in November 2018 by Fairfield Police.
But due to pressure from animal rights groups, prosecutors upgraded the charges to felonies on Wednesday, Feb. 13.
Lueders, who headed Bully Breed Rescue, Inc., was said to be in the care of the five dogs that were found. However, the dogs were believed to have been sent to various sanctuaries and foster homes, according to a post on the Bully Breed Rescue Inc. website from Vice President Chris Antoine.
Officials uncovered the real fate of the dogs when the landlord allegedly found skeletons of five dogs in the rented home. Police said at the time of her arrest, that the home was full of by trash, feces and drug paraphernalia.
Robin Cannamela, president of Desmond's Army, said members from their group go to court for animal abuse prosecutions as a way to hold the guilty accountable and as a voice for the voiceless. She said they also work to show that there is a well-documented link between animal abuse and domestic violence.
"The whole animal rights community is in shock from this case," she said. "It's the most horrific we have seen and we are all devasted by the loss."
Lueders, who pleaded not guilty, faces a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in prison for each offense.
Superior Court Judge Tracy Lee Dayton set the next hearing for the case for March 15.
Cannamela, who hopes to see Lueders receive the full five-year sentence, said Desmond's Army will be at every hearing to make sure justice is served for the dogs.
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