MADAWASKA – Police charged 38-year-old Lee Mangos of Madawaska with a civil infraction of cruelty to animals after two dogs that were in his charge starved to death, and a third dog was near starvation when police arrived at his rented home on March 20.
After receiving an anonymous phone tip, police went to Mangos’ residence to investigate a report that he had two deceased adult St. Bernards in his garage.
“Once I received the complaint, I needed to follow up on this,” said Madawaska Police Chief Carroll Theriault.
Theriault said it appeared nobody was home when they arrived, but that officers were greeted by Diesel, a collie shepherd mix who barked at them when they knocked on the door. Diesel was thin, but seemed otherwise healthy according to Theriault. He said he looked through windows, but did not see any sign of a deceased dog, though he noted that conditions in and around the home were deteriorated. Police returned to the station, where Mangos arrived within a half hour after police left his home.
Theriault said Mangos was cooperative and admitted that the two deceased dogs were in his garage and that he was waiting for the ground to thaw so he could bury them. Police returned to the home and removed the dogs.
“It was very apparent that they had probably died from starvation from their physical appearance,” said Theriault. “I could count every rib.”
Mangos signed over Diesel to an animal humane officer who transported the dog to the Central Aroostook Humane Society shelter in Presque Isle.
In a phone interview, Mangos reported that he was upset that the dogs had died. He said he was involved in a “nasty divorce,” and that his ex was supposed to help him with the dogs that he bought for her.
“This was not done intentionally,” said Mangos. “I was in a very bad financial rut. When my ex-wife left, I told her that I could not take care of those dogs.”
Because the dogs were in his charge, however, Theriault said the responsibility for their health resided with Mangos.
Mangos said he did all he could to try and feed the dogs, but the help his ex-wife promised never came and he could barely afford to survive himself, let alone care for the dogs properly.
“I went days without eating myself, just so they could eat,” said Mangos. “Because they were St. Bernards, and eating human food they weren’t getting the nutrients they needed.”
Police charged Mangos with a civil infraction due to the circumstances surrounding the case and because this was Mangos’ first transgression of this kind and he was cooperative with police, even expressing remorse for the situation. Mangos will have to pay a fine. If the District Attorney’s Office determines the case to warrant criminal charges, then he could still be charged with a Class D felony.
Health officer Percy Thibeault determined the property where Mangos was staying on 14th Avenue as unhealthy. The property owners, who Theriault said are from Presque Isle and were unaware of what was happening at the home, are now cleaning the house and surrounding yard.
Theriault said he wished Mangos had come to the police for help before the situation had progressed so far.
“I’ve been in law enforcement over 30 years, and I have never seen anything so heartbreaking and unfortunate when it comes to animal abuse. We have food at the shelter. We would not have let any animal starve,” he said.
Mangos said that he has undergone counseling to help him deal with the stress and anxiety his divorce and financial situation has put him under. He said he has lived in Madawaska for over four years and in that time he has worked on the fire department and served the community. Mangos said he was ashamed that this happened.
“I love animals,” said Mangos, who has owned dogs his entire life. “When this happened, I was devastated.”
Depending on the court decision, Mangos may never be allowed to own a dog again. Theriault said that the District Attorney’s Office could request the court place the restriction on Mangos, but it is unclear at this point if that is a condition they plan on applying.
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