CT woman charged with running ‘hell hole for goats’ offered deal

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A woman charged with animal cruelty after 65 goats were allegedly found living in “a hell hole for goats” on her Redding property and another 40-50 goats were found dead is expected to accept an offer that could drop the charges and would allow her to own more goats.

Nancy Burton, of Redding, was charged with 65 counts animal cruelty and obstructing an animal control officer after a goat that wandered off her property was struck by a car and injured.

Burton was facing a criminal trial, but records show those charges could be dropped as she is set to accept a offer for accelerated rehabilitation that will allow her to have more animals in her custody without any restrictions.

About 65 goats were allegedly found living in dilapidated shelters with limited water on Burton’s property three years ago, when investigators carried out a secret stakeout. They allegedly found that many of the animals struggled to move because their hooves had grown so long they had begun to curl. One of their paddocks was filled with manure piled nearly to the roof, and there was no running water, court records show.

When investigators executed a search warrant to seize the surviving animals, they found between 40 and 50 dead goats in plastic bags, underneath a tarp inside trash containers or partially buried, according to statements by Attorney General William Tong at the time of the animals’ seizure.

The state seized the goats, many of which were pregnant, and has since obtained custody of the nearly 100 goats despite attempts by Burton to get them back, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

Burton’s case has been pending since her arrest, and court records pertaining to her criminal case have been ordered sealed by the court. But a motion recently filed in the appellate court outlines the terms of a diversionary program reportedly offered to Burton by Danbury Judge Maximino Medina.

According to the document, Burton appeared in court on March 7, 2024, and was presented with an offer for accelerated rehabilitation, or AR, that states “all pending criminal charges pertinent to this matter will be dismissed without further action further days hence” — meaning the charges against her will be dismissed.

Burton is set to appear in court next in Danbury on April 8, state court records show.

Judge Medina reportedly “proceeded to invite (Burton) to participate in a ‘diversionary’ program whereby all pending criminal charges will be dismissed on April 8, 2024,” the motion says.

The stipulation of the agreement is that Burton must meet three requirements: She can not be arrested for 30 days, not own or possess any goats for 30 days and not interfere with an animal control officer for 30 days, the document says.

The motion states that Burton “anticipates that all pending charges relating to the goats will be dismissed effective April 8.”

Redding First Selectwoman Julia Pemberton said she believes the accelerated rehabilitation offer is unjust.

“It is a miscarriage of justice, plain and simple,” she said. “This woman should not be allowed to own livestock at all anymore, period.

“I’ll be very blunt. The court screwed us, essentially, by offering Ms. Burton AR without notifying the office of the First Selectman, the head of the town that has been impacted by this situation for many many years,” Pemberton added.

Before she faced criminal charges, Burton’s goat population was a concern in her Redding neighborhood in the town, spurring complaints and concerns from community members who said the goats wandered the neighborhood looking for food.

Neighbors in the area around Burton’s property complained for years about the goats’ welfare, goats wandering onto their properties and posing risks to drivers. Over a little more than a dozen years, there were 120 individual complaints and civil citations concerning the goats at Burton’s home.

Burton is currently entangled in multiple cases of civil litigation, including legal battles with former neighbors and even the Attorney General’s Office over the custody of the seized goats.

Pemberton said that Burton still owns the property where the goats were kept in Redding, but that it has been deemed uninhabitable, meaning Burton is not allowed to live on the premises unless she takes certain steps to rectify concerns.

Pemberton said that town forums were ablaze for years with goat sightings, causing residents concern about safety risks associated with the wandering goats. Often, she said, those who spoke up about the issue were met by civil lawsuits filed by Burton.

“The goats are innocent,” Pemberton said. “This is about someone who is unable to care for the livestock under her care, unable to see what is clear to everyone and uses the courts as a weapon. We really need to look out for animals that can’t look out for themselves.

For neighbors and community members who feel their lives and neighborhood have been impacted by Burton, the accelerated rehabilitation offer feels like an injustice for them, the animals seized from her property, the animals who died on her property and any animals that might come into her care in the future.

Iris Hotakov, a neighbor in Redding, said she met Burton about two months before the goats were seized and was helping her build a website to help find a new home for the goats.

“She seemed to want the goats to be placed (in new homes), but it maybe got away from her,” Hotakov said.

She said she had no idea or indication that the goats were living in unhealthy conditions.

“With what they discovered it was pretty clear that it was a terrible thing that was happening and yet she seemed, in some way, to want to help the goats and to want to place them. And yet it never seemed to happen.”

Vanessa Alward, a neighbor who lives two houses down from Burton’s property, said she was alarmed at the thought of Burton owning more animals.

“I don’t think a 30-day thing is going to do anything.” Alward said.

Alward said she saw those concerning conditions firsthand.

“She used to bring in bottles of water to give the goats on occasion but I never saw any food, and they lived on a pile of their own manure,” Alward alleged.

Alward echoed concerns that Burton’s alleged animal-hoarding was a blight on the whole neighborhood.

“Constantly the goats were in the road, you’d be worried that someone would hit one and it would cause an accident. Other animals were getting them and attracting predators,” she said.

Alward also said an odor emanating from the property was palpable.

“In the summer when you would walk by, the stench was horrendous from the yard.”

Robin ”Zilla” Cannamela, president and co-founder of Desmond’s Army Animal Law Advocates, said the accelerated rehabilitation Burton has been offered “does not ensure the safety of more animals or the community.”

Cannamela said, as an animal advocate, she has seen many cases of animals being kept in horrendous conditions.

“I would describe it as … a hell hole for goats. For any animal,” she said, referring to Burton’s goats. “They were roaming the neighborhood for food, they were starving. There was no running water. She had to cart in water, how do you cart in water for 65 goats? They were actively dying on her property on neighbor’s property as animal control was picking them up. There were dead goats in plastic bags. It was insanity.”

Cannamela said she had been hoping Burton would go to trial, but now she is just hoping “that the judge sees through this that a person…”

Burton’s goats have been adopted, according to the Attorney General’s Office, but were in state care after their seizure. They were brought to York Correctional Institution in Niantic, where the state maintains property equipped to care for the animals office.

Elizabeth Benton, spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office, told the Hartford Courant that “given the extreme neglect and deplorable conditions of the goats previously removed from Ms. Burton’s care, it is concerning and disappointing that she may once again be allowed to own goats.”

The state has a separate civil case regarding custody of the seized goats, referred to in court records as “State of Connecticut v. 65 Goats.”

“Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis granted permanent ownership to the state in May 2022, noting the significant resources the state had committed to the care and custody of the severely neglected goats,” Benton said, but Burton is appealing that decision.

Arguments were heard in that case several weeks ago, Benton said, and the state was awaiting a decision from the appellate court.

Because Burton’s court records are sealed, the Courant could not identify her attorney in her criminal case for comment.

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