[Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Greenwich Free Press.]
Outside state Superior Court in Bridgeport Wednesday morning, protesters waved signs honoring “the Fairfield Five,” a reference to five dogs who died in the care of New Canaan resident Heidi Lueders while she was living in Fairfield last year. The protesters, many of them affiliated with dog advocacy groups, asked for animal cruelty charges lodged against the 31-year-old to be upgraded to felonies. Lueders had been charged by Fairfield Police with five misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty as well as one count of criminal damage to a landlord’s property by a tenant, a felony. During an arraignment in which Lueders pleaded not guilty (see more below), prosecutors upgraded the charges as many in attendance wished. Under state law, first-time offenders found guilty of animal cruelty in cases such as Lueders’s can face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in prison for each offense.