CHEYENNE – The owner of two dogs found starving and dehydrated in October appeared for the first time Monday afternoon in Laramie County District Court.
Roy Castrun Burnett Jr. pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals-undue suffering. Laramie County District Judge Thomas Campbell set Burnett’s trial for April 12.
Burnett was cited for animal cruelty by an animal control officer in early October. The case was bound over from Laramie County Circuit Court, where it was originally filed.
Both dogs are in the care of Cheyenne Animal Shelter and are physically in stable condition, shelter CEO Sue Castaneda said Monday, though Kru, the male dog, is doing better mentally and socially than Karma, the female dog.
“However, neither dog is going to do well if this court case drags on for months and months, which has been our experience to date,” Castaneda said.
In addition to his Nov. 7 arrest for the two animal cruelty charges, Burnett was also arrested Nov. 19 by the Laramie County Sheriff’s Department for failure to comply with bond conditions, which barred him from having any contact with animals. According to court documents, a Laramie County Animal Control officer received a call Nov. 14 that three puppies had been left outside in the cold at Burnett’s ex-wife’s residence. The officer went to the home and saw the puppies outside. He then made contact with Burnett, who was present, and told him the puppies could not be left out in the cold.
According to court documents:
At 1:21 p.m. Oct. 10, the manager of a mobile home park located at 316 Central Ave. reported to the Laramie County Sheriff’s Department that he’d discovered two dogs “that appeared to be in extreme malnutrition.”
Cheyenne Police officers responded to the scene later that afternoon. After repeated attempts to contact Burnett, Cheyenne Fire Rescue was called in to open the mobile home door, and Laramie County Animal Control was called for assistance with the dogs. When the door opened, both dogs appeared and tried to get outside, and an officer slipped leashes on both.
Three to four weeks prior to the dogs being discovered, a neighbor said she ran into Burnett while shopping and expressed concern about the dogs obviously losing weight. She said Burnett assured her they were “doing OK.”
After being impounded Oct. 10, the dogs were given immediate care at the animal shelter. Medical examinations and the rate at which the dogs regained weight over the following days indicated there were no underlying medical conditions that contributed to the dogs’ dehydration and starvation, a veterinarian said.
Both dogs had a history of being picked up for “dog at large,” according to the shelter. Two previous pickups in May and October 2019 showed both at healthy weights and body conditions.
On Oct. 10, however, Karma, the female dog, weighed 24.4 pounds, less than half of the expected 52 pounds for dogs like her. Kru, the male dog, weighed 36.3 pounds, versus an average weight of 57 pounds for dogs like him. Both belong to a French mastiff breed known as Dogue de Bordeaux.
When contacted at his ex-wife’s residence on Oct. 16, Burnett told an animal control officer he thought someone had tried to poison the dogs. He said he’d seen them two weeks prior and “they did not look like that.” He said someone named “India” had been responsible for the dogs. Because Burnett couldn’t provide India’s last name or contact information, the animal control officer cited him for two misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.
At an Oct. 21 meeting with the animal control officer, Burnett reasserted someone may have tried to poison the dogs. He said he loved the dogs and that they were like his kids. He said he had a job that required him to leave the state for two weeks at a time, and that he had paid India on several occasions to take care of the dogs. Burnett then provided a physical description of India.
Records for the business Burnett said he worked for could not be found. He also could not provide the officer with information about the bank his payments to India had supposedly gone through.
Later that day, the animal control officer met with Burnett’s ex-wife at her workplace. The woman said she had last seen the dogs Sept. 23, and that she had petted the dogs “through a break in one of the windows” at the mobile home, which prevented her from seeing their bodies. She said Burnett had taken a large bag of dog food from her home that day, but she did not remember him going into the mobile home.
When asked if she knew someone named “India,” the woman said she had given India $150 in cash in April to take care of the dogs, and that was the only time she had met with him. The woman said she had no other information about India but that he supposedly lived at the Stage Coach Motel, 1515 W. Lincolnway.
When the animal control officer inquired about India at the motel, the manager and several residents denied they’d ever seen someone that matched his description. The manager of the mobile home park also said India was never a resident there, according to their records.