ELLSWORTH, Maine — A local man accused of having beaten his dog unconscious has been found innocent by a judge, according to attorneys involved in the case.

Jeremy Fowler’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth, said Monday that a passing motorist thought he saw Fowler beating the dog when, in fact, Fowler was wiping wet paint off the dog’s paws with a wet rag. The April 26 incident occurred in a mobile home park off Route 1 in Hancock.

Marie Zwicker, the animal control officer for the town of Hancock, initially charged Fowler, 36, with aggravated cruelty to animals, a class C charge punishable by up to five years in prison and a possible fine of up to $5,000. After reviewing the evidence, the Hancock County District Attorney’s office later reduced the charge to a civil cruelty to animals charge, which carries a possible fine of $500 to $2,500 but no jail time.

At a bench trial in Ellsworth District Court earlier this month, Justice Ann Murray determined that Fowler was innocent of the charge, Toothaker said. The outcome of the civil case is noted as “not committed” in the court file.

According to Toothaker, Fowler, his friend, and Fowler’s dog got into the friend’s car after painting a mobile home. Fowler’s dog jumped into the car, a Subaru wagon, and into the back of the vehicle, where it stepped into open paint containers. The dog continued to hop around inside, getting paint “all over the place,” Toothaker said.

Fowler got back out of the car and grabbed the dog and then, while the dog was laying down on the ground, was using a rag to wipe the dog’s paws as a motorist drove by. A person in the passing car saw Fowler’s arm quickly moving up and down and thought Fowler was punching the animal, the defense attorney said.

The dog is deaf and has been well-trained by Fowler, who has had the dog for five or six years, Toothaker said. The dog was not unconscious and later showed no physical signs that it ever had been abused, he said.

“He was not beaten at all,” the defense attorney said.

William Entwisle, assistant district attorney for Hancock County, prosecuted the case but declined Monday to comment on its outcome.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....