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Author Archives: DanaMarie Pannella

Sisters to complete 1000 hours of community service for starving their dog to death

State of Ohio v. Christina Davis and Delores Davis, a case prosecuted for the Cleveland Animal Protective League.

Delores and Christina Davis, sisters, were charged with one second degree misdemeanor count related to the starvation death of their dog. The dog was found deceased and emaciated in their yard. The sisters stated they relied on neighbors to provide them with free dog food. The dog’s bowls contained only filth and leaves.

Each defendant pleaded no contest to the charge. They must each complete 500 hours of community service and 5 years of active probation, during which time they cannot own animals and are subject to the APL’s monitoring. 90 days in jail were imposed, and suspended. They will pay court costs.

empty dog bowls starved dog yard

 

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Ohio House Bill 198 Reduces Humane Societies’ Power to Protect Animals

ANIMAL LEGISLATION UPDATE:
HB 198, which abolishes Ohio Humane Societies’ ability to appoint prosecutors to prosecute crimes against animals, was introduced in the Ohio House on 5/11/15. This is the first legislative effort to REDUCE a Humane Society’s ability to protect animals.

Primary Sponsors: Reps. Steve Hambley (R-69) and Greta Johnson (D-35)

Summary: To repeal section 2931.18 of the Revised Code to abolish the humane society’s authority to employ an attorney to prosecute certain violations of law dealing with animal cruelty.

Find your Legislator here: https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislators/find-my-legislators

HB 198 Hurts Animals

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Plaintiffs seek victims of Ohio Shiba Inu breeders “Fallscreek Shibas”

In February 2012, Edita Opluštilová, a resident of the Czech Republic, leased her Shiba Inu breed dog Mája to Tina King Duncan and Les Duncan. The Duncans operate as “Fallscreek Shibas” out of New Vienna, Ohio. The Duncans bred Mája twice and refused to return the dog and her second litter of puppies to Ms. Opluštilová. In December 2014, we accomplished the return of Mája and her puppies. The puppies are pictured below.

We also represent James Moglia of New York and Berry Bolink of the Netherlands, who recently filed suit against the Duncans in Highland County, Ohio. The Plaintiffs in this case purchased three Shiba Inu breed dogs from the Duncans, who hold themselves out to be reputable breeders with healthy, pedigreed Shiba Inu breed dogs of “champion” quality. Despite paying premium prices, the Plaintiffs allege that they never received AKC paperwork for their dogs as promised and also that one dog arrived infected with Giardia.

Similarly, we represented Gullborg Knudsen, a resident of Norway, who purchased a “show quality” Shiba Inu dog from the Duncans in April 2014. Fortunately, the dam and sire in Ms. Knudsen’s case were actually AKC registered, unlike those in some of our other cases. We were finally able to acquire the AKC registration papers for Ms. Knudsen’s dog.

The Duncans were previously located in Idaho (See article: Triple damages awarded in dog dispute).

Moglia and Bolink seek other individuals who are similarly situated. If you have purchased an un-registerable or sick dog, or paid for a dog never received from the Duncans, please contact Dana at dpannella@hmlawohio.com or 330-239-4480.

Shiba Inu dogs Ohio

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Savannah man, Michael Johnson, convicted of starving two dogs

State v. Michael Johnson, a case we prosecuted for the Ashland County Dog Shelter/Dog Warden.

Johnson was charged with animal cruelty related to the starvation of his two Golden Retriever dogs, Laney and Sadie.

The Ashland County Dog Warden visited Johnson’s property when it was reported that a dog had been abandoned there. Sadly, Sadie had already passed away. There was a bag containing dog food in the kitchen, just feet away from where both dogs were confined.

Johnson entered a plea to two counts of animal neglect, both second degree misdemeanors, and was found guilty.

Laney recovered and Johnson surrendered ownership to the Dog Warden today.

Sentencing is set for May 4, 2015.

Golden Retrievers Ohio

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Cleveland woman sentenced for neglect of two dogs

State v. Glenda Murray, a case we prosecuted for the Cleveland Animal Protective League.

Glenda Murray was charged related to her neglect of two emaciated, ill dogs tethered without shelter in cold weather. Glenda Murray’s husband, Fuller Murray, who was also charged, is currently serving jail time on felony firearms and assault charges and his animal cruelty case is still awaiting adjudication.

Glenda Murray was found guilty of four counts and was sentenced to the maximum jail term (1 ½ years), all suspended. The suspended time may be imposed if she fails to complete 5 years’ probation. During probation, she is prohibited from owning or keeping any animal. She must also submit to random inspections. Murray must complete 100 hours of community service and pay $230 in restitution to the APL.

Chained dog

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Cleveland couple sentenced to jail for keeping dogs in filth

State v. Melody and Edward McDonald; cases we prosecuted for the Cleveland Animal Protective League. Both will serve jail time.

The Defendants, husband and wife, were each found guilty of keeping three dogs in filthy conditions. The floors of the residence were caked with animal fecal matter and debris. The house smelled extremely foul. After receiving notice that a complaint had been filed with the APL, Mr. McDonald abandoned several dogs on Independence Road that were never recovered. He claimed that he left the dogs in a “safe place” because the Animal Warden would find them.

The Defendants were sentenced today by Judge Adrine. The McDonalds were given 180 days in jail, with 170 days suspended. They will both serve 10 days, and the remaining suspended time may be imposed if they fail to complete 5 years’ probation. During probation, they are prohibited from owning or keeping any animal. They must also submit to random inspections.

filthy house Cleveland APL dogs

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Right to Register Service Dogs in Ohio Pursuant to the ADA

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that gives the overall structure and intent for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

Pursuant to the ADA, if you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may only ask the person who has the animal if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. Documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal cannot be required.

While the ADA does not override other federal laws, it will override state or local laws that provide less protection or benefit. However, if a state or local law provides more protection or greater benefit, it will override the ADA.

Ohio requires that all dogs be licensed, including service dogs.

Ohio Revised Code section 955.011(A) states that “[w]hen an application is made for registration of an assistance dog and the owner can show proof by certificate or other means that the dog is an assistance dog… certificates and tags stamped ‘Ohio Assistance Dog-Permanent Registration,’ with registration number, shall be issued…” and further, in (B)(3) that “’Assistance dog’ means a guide dog, hearing dog, or service dog that has been trained by a nonprofit special agency.”

This language in the Revised Code conflicts with protections specifically afforded by the ADA.

First, that an assistance dog may only be trained by a nonprofit special agency. Pursuant to the ADA, there is no requirement that a service animal be trained by a nonprofit agency, just that it be individually trained.

Second, that proof by certificate or other means is required for the issuance of assistance dog tags. Pursuant to the ADA, if you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may only ask the person who has the animal if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. Documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal cannot be required.

While many Ohio counties simply follow the provisions afforded by the ADA when issuing registration tags, some still wrongly require proof that a service dog was trained by a nonprofit agency.


For more information, contact our offices in Fairlawn and Sharon Center at (877) 239-4480. We help clients resolve dog registration disputes throughout Ohio.

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Summit County horse starvation case results in conviction

State v. Sixto Gutierrez, a case we prosecuted for the Pawsibilities Humane Society of Greater Akron in Stow Municipal Court.

Defendant Gutierrez pleaded guilty to animal cruelty for the starvation of 3 horses, including a young colt. All of the horses recovered under the care of Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary, Inc.

Gutierrez is not permitted to possess animals of any kind for 5 years and is subject to random inspections to ensure compliance. He must pay a $100 fine and court costs. He faces 90 days in jail and the reinstatement of the remaining $400 in fines if he fails to comply with the terms of probation.

equine law starved horses

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Divorce and Separation: Who gets to keep the family pet?

Conflicts over a pet can be just as serious to divorcing spouses or separating couples as any other issue. Many couples consider their pet to be a family member or child and it can be difficult to come to a mutual agreement about which person should keep the pet. Unlike real children, for which specific laws about custody and visitation exist, pet custody issues have been largely ignored by domestic relations and civil laws.

In Ohio, pets are considered to be personal property like your chair or toaster oven. Thus, when couples are dividing their property due to divorce or separation, courts usually follow the same guidelines they use to determine who gets to keep personal property when deciding issues about pet custody.

Pet Parenting/Custody Agreements

Coming to an agreement about pet custody and visitation can help to avoid unnecessary litigation costs and stress. A “pet parenting plan” allows couples to make joint decisions about custody, visitation rights, who pays for pet expenses (vet bills, grooming), etc. A pet parenting plan is a formalized contract, and can even be incorporated into dissolution or divorce agreements.

Court Intervention

In the event that the parties cannot come to an agreement, parties can seek to have a court decide issues related to pet custody. Some courts are becoming more open-minded and taking into consideration factors that can help them reach a determination about where a pet will live. In some states, courts have awarded shared custody or visitation rights after reviewing evidence and testimony provided by the pet’s owners and expert witnesses regarding what is in the pet’s best long term interest.

However, it is important to note that courts have no specific power to take into account the pet’s best interests since pets are considered “property.” Reaching an agreement out of court nearly always results in a better outcome for pets and their people.

For more information, contact our offices in Fairlawn and Sharon Center at (877) 239-4480. We help clients resolve animal custody disputes throughout northeast Ohio.

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How is Dissolution Different from Divorce in Ohio?

In the state of Ohio, you can end your marriage in one of two ways–divorce or dissolution.

Divorce

When parties cannot agree to resolve issues such as division of marital assets or debts, child custody/support, or spousal support (alimony), a divorce takes place. This process is adversarial. In order to obtain a divorce, one party must allege that their spouse has been at fault under one of the statutory grounds. Those grounds are:
-adultery;
-willful absence for more than one year;
-one spouse was already married at the time of their marriage to the second spouse (bigamy);
-extreme cruelty;
-habitual drunkenness;
-gross neglect of duty;
-fraudulent contract; and
-imprisonment of the other spouse.

The only true “no fault” grounds for divorce are:
-living separate and apart for one year without interruption and without cohabitation; and
-incompatibility that is not denied by either party.

The divorce process begins when one party files a complaint for divorce. A party may also file motions for restraining order and financial, health, and custody affidavits with the court. The complaint for divorce and accompanying documents are formally served upon the other party. Thereafter, a hearing to obtain an interim or temporary order may take place to settle financial issues while the divorce is proceeding, discovery is conducted to gather relevant information regarding the issues in the case, and pretrial conferences are held to discuss the case with the judge.

In Ohio, divorce cases are either settled by agreement of the parties or tried before a judge or magistrate. The court may resolve any issues that the parties cannot settle between themselves. In any event, a divorce cannot be granted until at least 6 weeks have passed from service of the complaint.

Marital Dissolution

On the other hand, a dissolution occurs when the parties are able to reach an agreement resolving all issues (parental rights, visitation, child support, spousal support, division of property, payment of debts, and payment of attorney fees, etc.). A dissolution helps parties to eliminate much of the divorce process and expense and, unlike a divorce, fault grounds are not at issue. This process is non-adversarial in nature, but still requires court approval.

A joint dissolution petition is not filed with the court until the parties have reached an agreement. While the parties are negotiating, the parties must voluntarily trade information. When an agreement is reached, the dissolution petition is filed with the court. A hearing will then occur, during which both parties must appear and testify that they are satisfied with the agreement; that they have made full disclosure of all assets and liabilities; that they have voluntarily signed the agreement; and that they both want the marriage dissolved. The court will decide whether to approve the parties’ agreement.

If the parties cannot resolve all the issues between them and still wish to terminate their marriage, one spouse will need to file for divorce instead of filing the joint dissolution petition. At any time before the court has granted a decree of dissolution of marriage, either party may convert the case into a divorce case.

The end result of both a divorce and a dissolution of marriage is the same: the marriage is terminated.

For more information, contact our offices in Fairlawn and Sharon Center at (877) 239-4480. We represent clients terminating their marriages throughout northeast Ohio.

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