Couple Sues SPCA for $21 Million
Over Sled Dog Seizure
By Associated Press, 1/25/2001 QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (AP)

A couple acquitted of charges they starved their sled dogs and let some freeze to death have filed a $21.15 million false-arrest lawsuit against the SPCA of Upstate New York.

Mark and Lisa Labrecque accuse the SPCA, its executive director, directors and investigators of failing to properly investigate the case, suppressing evidence that would have cleared them and giving false information to the media.

The couple say they spent $30,000 to defend themselves, have become estranged since, have had trouble finding work and only got 13 of their 39 huskies and malamutes back after the acquittal last August, according to Mark Labrecque's lawyer, John Hogan Jr.

The Labrecques were arrested in January 2000 on animal cruelty charges after five puppies were found dead on their property. More than three dozen dogs were seized because SPCA's investigators believed many were malnourished.

A Warren County jury acquitted the couple who ran a sled dog business after a seven-day trial.

The couple also contend the SPCA wrongly tried to make them pay nearly $29,000 in boarding and medical fees for care of dogs while the charges were pending, though most dogs had been adopted.

Ben Pratt, the shelter's lawyer, said the SPCA conducted a thorough investigation and the staff acted in accord with both the law and their charter, which obligates them to prevent animal cruelty.