A 23-year-old Healy man charged with nine counts of felony cruelty to animals and nine counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals requested a change of plea Tuesday in Fairbanks Superior Court.
Zachary Stevenson was arrested and charged with animal cruelty on Jan. 31, 2020, after Alaska State Troopers found three deceased sled dogs and five deceased chickens on his mother’s property in Healy. Each of the deceased animals appeared to be “skinny, malnourished, emaciated, and they had no apparent body fat,” according to charging documents.
The man’s mother, Laura Knowles, 47, has also been charged with nine counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals in the case.
On Jan. 31, 2020, troopers received a report that Knowles had moved away from her property in Healy and had left “multiple dogs chained up and chickens uncared for.” Knowles’ son was supposed to be caring for the animals but had failed to do so, according to the report.
Troopers located two living sled dogs in addition to the three deceased dogs and five deceased chickens on the property. The two living dogs showed “no hostility or guard drive and were immediately trying to lick responders and were whimpering softly,” according to charging documents. The dogs appeared to be physically malnourished and had no discernible fat stores on their body.
There was dry dog food spilled and frozen to the ground and bowls with frozen water on the property. The deceased chickens were found in the chicken coop without access to food, water, supplemental heating or clean hay-bedding, according to charging documents.
Alaska State Troopers took protective custody of the two living dogs and took them to Fairbanks Animal Control shelter for an evaluation by a veterinarian.
The evaluation indicated that both living dogs were emaciated and malnourished, which in the veterinarian’s professional opinion "caused severe physical pain and prolonged physical suffering." The veterinarian concluded that the three deceased dogs and five deceased chickens appeared to have died of starvation in conjunction with hypothermia.
During questioning, Knowles reported that she was relying on Stevenson to care for the animals but failed to acknowledge that she knew he had also moved away from the property and had been failing to care for the animals.
Both Stevenson and Knowles are expected to appear in court next week for their change of plea hearings on June 23 and June 25, respectively.
Contact reporter Liv Clifford at 459-7582. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMcrime.