Attorney pursues new defense for ex-animal rescue president accused of starving dogs

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BRIDGEPORT -

The attorney for a former animal rescue president accused of starving to death five dogs in her Fairfield home has disclosed he's pursuing a new defense in the case.

Monday was supposed to be a deadline for Heidi Lueders to produce proof explaining why she previously had prescription drugs in her system. The judge on Monday gave her a couple more days to do so.

Lueders' attorney told the court he's reversing course, and abandoning an initial defense based on mental illness.

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"However, they do want to explore a defense related to her abuse of drugs as being a factor in forming her intent or lack of intent to commit a crime," says Ken Bernhard, the attorney appointed to represent the victims in the case - now known as the Fairfield Five.

In November, police responded to Lueders' home and discovered the dogs dead - each in a cage, reduced to just bones. They also found mounds of trash, feces and drug paraphernalia throughout the home.

Lueders faces five counts of felony animal cruelty. As part of her bail, she's subject to random drug tests.

She previously tested positive for prescriptions that she says a doctor gave her to help with withdrawal. Lueders was supposed to provide a letter to the judge proving that Monday.

“She failed to do that. The judge gave defense counsel until Wednesday to produce such a letter to validate that the prescriptions she's taking and the drugs that are in her system are in fact lawfully secured in being used,” says Bernhard.

If Lueders doesn't produce a letter by Wednesday, the judge wants a hearing Friday morning where she will likely face consequences.

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