West found guilty on 62 counts in puppy mill case
ELLSWORTH — A Pierce County jury found Stuart Earl West guilty on 62 misdemeanor charges related to treatment of dogs at his Alma Bottom Pointing Labs facility in 2016. The rural Elmwood man was found not guilty on 63 charges.
The verdict was reached around 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25. The panel of 12 jurors deliberated more than six hours.
West was found guilty on six counts of improper animal shelter space, 48 counts of failure to provide proper food and drink to animals and eight counts of animal mistreatment. Verdicts of not guilty were delivered on 15 counts of improper animal shelter space and 48 counts of improper indoor animal shelter ventilation.
Pierce County deputies executed a search warrant April 22, 2016, at West's property after a prospective dog buyer called in a complaint following a visit to the facility. Authorities seized 48 yellow Labradors.
“This case all comes down to real basics,” Pierce County District Attorney Sean Froelich said Oct. 25 during closing arguments. “Food, shelter, water, air and the treatment these Labradors received.”
Froelich highlighted photographic evidence and testimony from a veterinarian the state claims proves West mistreated four dozen dogs found on his property in 2016.
Defense attorney Keith Belzer said that while West’s beliefs on raising dogs may be controversial, they are not criminal. He also called into question the bias of members of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals who testified during the trial.
Belzer suggested jurors look at the facts of the case devoid of feelings.
Verdict form redo
Before Circuit Court Judge Joseph Boles could poll jurors Wednesday, attorneys for the case discovered wording on a verdict form was incorrect. The form was worded for the improper food and drink count instead of the animal mistreatment count. The jury was brought back to the deliberation room and provided corrected verdict forms.
The jurors were polled and the verdicts on all 125 counts confirmed around 9 p.m.
Pierce County District Attorney Sean Froelich requested that West's bond be revoked because of an allegation of bail jumping in a separate pending case, though the judge denied the request on the grounds that he has never revoked bond on a misdemeanor verdict.
Sentencing in the case is set for Nov. 30.