by Edward Marshall
A Falling Waters man was awaiting arraignment Monday on 141 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty as a result of an investigation that saw 132 dogs and eight cats seized from his home last month.
Rocky Del Trolio, 54, of Slate Lane, was served with the warrants following a hearing in Berkeley County Magistrate Court on the seizure of the animals, but was not expected to be arraigned until later Monday evening at the earliest.
Berkeley County Magistrate Jim Humphrey found in favor of the state that the seizure of the animals was justified at Monday's hearing based on evidence the animals were neglected and deprived of necessary sustenance and medical care. He ordered that an $11,266 bond be posted for the care of the seized animals for the next 30 days, which Trolio will have within five days from the filing of the court order to post.
Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Saunders said that the animals will remain in the custody of the county until the disposition of the criminal case. Trolio testified Monday that the majority of the dogs were never his and he was simply trying to do his best to give them away. He alleged he began by helping others give away their unwanted animals, but it spiraled out of control when others began leaving animals at his home.
"It started with cats. At one time we had 18 cats up there. We never had a lot of dogs up there until last year," Trolio said. "It got to the point where we needed help."
Trolio said he "begged and pleaded" for Berkeley County Animal Control and numerous animal rescue agencies to help take some of the dogs off of his hands, but alleges he received no aid from anyone.
"I did a pretty darn good job of taking care of that many dogs," Trolio said at one point.
That was in contrast to the details of alleged animal cruelty and neglect contained in the warrant for his arrest, as well as testimony Monday from Berkeley County Animal Control Officer Kevin Jones.
According to court records, on June 19, Deputy Michael P. St. Clair of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department received a complaint from Animal Control Officer Donna McMahan. She told the deputy that she had received several complaints about several dogs being mistreated at Trolio's home, and said that every time an officer would go to the man's residence neither he nor his wife would let officers inside to check on the animals' welfare.
McMahan then said the Humane Society of the United States sent her a report, which stated that two HSUS investigators answered an ad on Craigslist.com posted by Trolio regarding a puppy. The report also stated that there was a foul odor coming from the home and when the door was open they could see feces on the floor inside, as well as about 10 to 12 dogs loose in the home that had feces on them. The two HSUS investigators purchased one of the puppies and took the animal to the Shenandoah Veterinary Hospital. According to the veterinarian's report, the puppy was dehydrated, underweight and had a heavy intestinal parasite burden. The puppy also had fleas and lesions on the abdomen due to matted feces within the animal's coat, records show.
That same day, St. Clair and animal control officers executed a search warrant at Trolio's home. While talking to Trolio's wife, St. Clair could hear what sounded like dogs fighting inside the residence. Once the dogs calmed down, animal control officers went into the home and McMahan came back outside with a wounded dog that had blood pouring out of its neck, records show.
The dog appeared to have been attacked by the other dogs in the home and appeared to be going into shock from blood loss.
"One dog had a severe gnash on his back and was bleeding severely," Jones testified. "The dog was euthanized right there on the spot."
As officers went into the home, they noticed feces covering the entire floor and on the walls. Officers found puppies in cardboard boxes and crates, dogs with mange, dogs with feces matted in their fur and one dog that was so old that it couldn't walk. Jones testified that approximately half of the animals were found to be underweight. He also said he found no food or water in the house. Trolio alleges he had $18,000 worth of food, as well as thousands of dollars worth of medicine, outside of the house that he says authorities failed to account for...." More