Woman Arraigned on Animal Cruelty Charges, 162 Animals Seized from Ayer Property

AYER – Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, Ayer Chief of Police Brian Gill and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) have confirmed that Ruth Maxant-Schulz, 77, of Ayer was arraigned today in Ayer District Court on 30 counts of Animal Cruelty.

On February 20, 2024, Ayer Police Officers received a request for a well-being check at a Taft Street residence in Ayer. When they arrived at the residential property, they observed animals roaming outside the property, including two ponies, several goats, and ducks.  Officers discovered several deceased animals both outside and inside the home. Officers saw two dead goats at the front door of the house and could see through a window several goats inside a room that was covered in trash, animal feces, and debris.

Inside the house officers found three dead baby goats lying next to each other. While searching the residence for Ms. Maxant-Schulz, officers discovered two additional baby goats lying next to each other. One was deceased and the other appeared to be alive but unwell. Officers heard a dog barking from a back room and saw a duck walking around the house. The Ayer Animal Control Officer was notified and upon arrival she heard baby goats making crying sounds and did not see any food or water set out for them.

On February 23, Ayer Police applied for and were granted a search warrant for the residence. Officers made observations that were consistent with what was reportedly observed on February 20. In addition to those observations, officers discovered a dog crate containing various fowl with no access to food or water. When Tufts Veterinarians arrived, they reported that there was a likely risk to the animals’ health due to the nature of the property and the animals’ inability to access nutritious food and water. The veterinarians believed the animals were likely in a state of neglect and therefore believed it was necessary to remove the animals from the property. An injured adult goat was observed limping around the property with a broken leg. He was treated immediately by Tufts veterinarians and removed from the property.  

The Town of Ayer Health Agent subsequently applied for and was granted an administrative search warrant.  Observations of a dead goat were made by the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health Agent and the Town of Ayer Building Department inside a barn on the property. As a result of the observations made and in consultation with MSPCA Law Enforcement and Tufts Veterinarians, Ayer Police applied for and were granted a second search warrant to search the barn and remainder of the property. In addition to the livestock found on property, officers observed dead and decomposing goats and chickens.

Of the animals seized from the property, there were specific injuries and medical issues noted, including emaciated animals and goats with severe abscesses and mastitis. Several fowl seized on property were treated for lice. 

A total of 162 animals were seized over the course of the two warrant executions, including 49 goats, 91 chickens, 11 ducks, 8 geese, 2 ponies, and 1 dog.

Judge Tejal Mehta ordered the defendant released on personal recognizance and imposed conditions of no possession of animals, no working with animals, no living with animals, no unsupervised contact with animals, and to abide by the condemnation order set forth in Northeast Housing Court. The defendant also surrendered all rights to the animals that were seized. Maxant-Schulz will be back in Ayer District Court on June 20th for a pretrial hearing.

This is an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, the Ayer Police Department, and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Assistant District Attorney Kailey Verni and Detective Brent Davis are assigned to this case.

These charges are allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.