Bail lowered in animal abuse case

August 8, 2008 11:00:12 PM PDT
The man accused in a high profile animal abuse case in Santa Cruz County chose to remain in custody Friday, even though the judge cut his bail in half.

Robert Brunette, 45, is accused of animal cruelty and neglect involving 40 dogs.

Santa Cruz authorities have been collecting evidence against Brunette since 2002, but it was a new complaint last week that led to his arrest.

"The situation isn't an isolated incident," prosecuter Heather Jones said. "This didn't happen overnight, we just didn't catch the defendent on a bad day; this is something, a situation, that has been building for some time."

Brunette pleaded not guilty to the 10 charges filed against him. If convicted he faces up to four years in prison and more than $22,000 in fines.

The property belonging to a Santa Cruz County man accused of significant animal abuse has violated a number of county codes, county planning department officials announced today.

Planning Director Tom Burns said county code enforcement officers inspected the buildings and property owned by Robert Brunette and have posted a notice of violation.

The property and surrounding buildings violated codes for construction without permits, neglected property and animal keeping in excess of four dogs and operation of a commercial kennel, official said.

Brunette has been charged with 10 counts of animal cruelty and neglect after animal control authorities rescued 38 emaciated and abused dogs from the property July 26.

During the search they also found a decapitated dog head, five dog skulls and a dead dog on the roof of the home. Brunette fled from his home that day, but was arrested July 31 near Los Gatos High School in Los Gatos.

The residential building on Brunette's property was also determined to be a "dangerous building" by planning department officers who found the presence of several conditions including decay, deterioration and faulty construction.

"We are hopeful that Mr. Brunette will take the corrective actions necessary to bring his property into compliance with the county code," Burns said. "If he does not, we may ask the court for the authority to take action necessary to abate the violations ourselves."

Brunette pleaded not guilty Monday to the 10 counts of animal cruelty and neglect in Santa Cruz County Superior Court. Two of the counts are felonies and the other eight are misdemeanors -- four counts of animal neglect and four counts of improper confinement.

Brunette was scheduled to be released from jail on his own recognizance Tuesday, but refused to accept the terms of the release, Deputy District Attorney Heather Jones said.

The conditions attached to his release would have prohibited him from keeping animals in his possession while the case is pending, and he would have had to agree to cooperate with authorities in the retrieval of 10 dogs that were believed to still be on his property, said Jones.


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