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Ohio Court finds false advertising about AKC registration violates Consumer Sales Practices Act

Highland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Rocky A. Coss held on January 25, 2016 that “suppliers representing dogs for sale, lease, stud, or trade to consumers as American Kennel Club (AKC) registered or registerable when such dogs are not AKC registered or registerable at the time of representation, is a deceptive act or practice in violation of Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act, ORC §1345.02(B)(1) and (2).”

In this case, Plaintiffs brought suit against a dog breeder who advertised puppies for sale as being of a particular quality and as American Kennel Club (AKC) registerable. The AKC is the largest and most well-known registry of purebred dogs in the United States. AKC registration is required for most dog show events and dogs with registration are typically of higher market value than ordinary dogs. The Plaintiffs purchased the puppies at a premium price due to the representation that they were AKC registerable, and later discovered that the puppies they had purchased were not AKC registerable.

The ruling in this case is significant because the worth of an animal in Ohio is ordinarily measured by its “fair market value.” Owners who suffer harms to their pets are often limited in recovery to the fair market value of those pets, which is often zero or very low for ordinary pets. One Plaintiff in this case purchased two puppies, whom he had promptly spayed/neutered, and planned to keep as pets. Those dogs, altered dogs, are dogs that fall into the “very low” category of fair market value. The value of AKC registration for these dogs was questionable because they could not compete in shows, etc. as an unaltered AKC-registered dog would. Because the pet owner was able to seek recovery pursuant to the Ohio Sales Consumer Practices Act, it provided a new avenue for recovery, as well as increased damages.

Plaintiffs were further granted a permanent injunction prohibiting the breeder from making these representations in the future.

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Jail Time and Fines for Farm Animal Cruelty Case

State v. Sofia Applegate, a case we prosecuted for the Geauga County Humane Society.

Applegate pled guilty today to one count of animal cruelty for neglecting to provided adequate food and water for three horses. One died on the scene. The others were not able to be rehabilitated despite the best efforts of the Humane Society, and were euthanized.

Applegate, who has no other criminal history, will serve three days in jail. Another 87 days were suspended and may be imposed if she fails to complete 5 years’ probation. During that time, she is prohibited from owning, keeping or living with any animals except for the two dogs and one cat she currently possesses, which must be kept in a humane, sanitary and lawful condition. (There was no evidence that the dogs and cat were not being cared for properly.) She is subject to random inspections during probation. She was fined $750, with $650 suspended, and must pay court costs.

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Did the FBI Make all Animal Cruelty a Felony?

A New Category–The FBI Defines Animal Cruelty as a “Felony”

Animal cruelty has long been categorized as a “general” crime by the FBI. The FBI, like Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (Ohio BCI) collects crime reports and organizes them by category. These reports come directly from law enforcement or courts post-conviction; they are not generated by citizens. Recently, the FBI announced it would begin treating animal cruelty crimes as “Class A felonies,” the same as arson, assault, and homicide, and that it would begin specifically tracking crimes committed against animals (animal cruelty).

Accordingly, on January 1, 2016, the FBI began categorizing animal cruelty offenses as “crimes against society,” in four distinct categories–neglect, intentional abuse and torture, organized abuse (dog fighting/cock fighting), and sexual abuse.

The FBI defines cruelty to animals as “Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause, such as torturing, tormenting, mutilation, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment.” The FBI definition does not include crimes committed negligently, such as Ohio Revised Code 959.131(c), the companion animal cruelty code.

Animal Cruelty Crimes Are Not All Felonies in Ohio

The meaning of the new FBI classification has been widely misunderstood. The new FBI mechanism for tracking these crimes does not change the penalty classification of animal cruelty crimes in Ohio. It does not make animal cruelty crimes a felony or a federal crime. The FBI will not be investigating local reports of animal cruelty or providing funding to our local Humane Societies or Police. Animal cruelty crimes should still be reported to local law enforcement for investigation. By updating its tracking, the FBI has simply acknowledged that these particular crimes are serious and deserve a closer look.

 In most states, most cruelty is still treated as a misdemeanor. Most animal cruelty crimes in Ohio are second degree misdemeanors, punishable by a fine of up to $750 and 90 days in jail. Ohio has two first-offense felony animal cruelty crimes. First, dog fighting. Second, knowing animal abuse committed against a companion animal by a dog kennel owner, manager, or employee (Nitro’s Law). A second offense of knowing animal cruelty committed against a companion animal is a felony.

While the new FBI classification has no effect on penalties for animal cruelty crimes, the tracking data is used by criminologists, law enforcement, and researchers to analyze trends and, hopefully, prevent future crime.

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Conviction for Companion Animal Neglect in Ashland County

State v. April McCartney, a case we prosecuted for the Ashland County Sheriff’s Department, with assistance from the Ashland County Humane Society.

McCartney was convicted of one count of companion animal neglect regarding 4 cats, 8 dogs and a bearded dragon lizard. Most of the dogs were tied outside in a yard heaped with garbage without access to food, water or adequate shelter. Other animals were kept in the house, which was also filled with garbage, including animal waste. There was a strong odor of urine and fecal ammonia throughout the house. The majority of the animals were very thin. Many were suffering from conjunctivitis, eye conditions, parasites and other ailments which the veterinarian said showed lack of proper care for a very prolonged period of time.

McCartney voluntarily surrendered all of the animals.

McCartney is not permitted to own, possess or live in a place with animals of any kind for 3 years, and is subject to random inspections. If she violates those terms, she faces 30 days in jail. She was only fined $100 plus court costs because she has no assets.

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Sentencing for Animal Boarder/Breeder

State v. Theopholis Hunter, a case we prosecuted that was investigated by the Cleveland Animal Protective League and City Dogs Cleveland (Cleveland Animal Care & Control).

Hunter was found guilty of two counts of animal cruelty for neglecting 19 dogs. Hunter operated a boarding/breeding operation for many years. The dogs were kept in filthy conditions and were suffering from various untreated ailments, such as severe matting, tumors/masses, and ear/eye infections. Hunter was cooperative and surrendered all 19 dogs immediately.

Hunter was ordered to have no animals for five years and remove all signage from his property related to the breeding/boarding/sale of animals. He will be subject to random inspections and faces 270 days in jail if he fails to comply. He was also ordered to pay $760 in restitution to the Cleveland APL.

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Sentencing for Cat Crossing Operators

State of Ohio v. Mary Wawyrtko, Joseph Scott Gray, and Jessica Oslander, cases prosecuted for the Cleveland APL.

Defendants were sentenced yesterday.

They will have to complete 5 years of active probation. During probation, the Defendants are prohibited from owning more than 2 spayed or neutered animals. They may continue to volunteer as cat caretakers at The Cat Crossing if they act under the oversight of a veterinarian and shelter management plan, both approved by the APL. All animals must be kept in a humane, sanitary and lawful manner. The Defendants will be subject to random, unannounced inspections of any facility where they care for cats by the Cleveland APL, Cleveland Animal Control, Public Health and Building Code officials, and other law enforcement to ensure compliance.

Defendants must obtain mental health assessments and abide by recommended treatment, if any.

Defendants must also pay $5,800.00 in restitution to the Cleveland APL and court costs. If the Defendants fail to comply with the terms of probation, they face up to 990 days in jail each.

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Jail Time for Farm Animal Cruelty in Boston Township

State v. Ionel Jura; a case we prosecuted which was investigated by the Humane Society of Greater Akron and the Peninsula Police.

Jura was convicted after a two day jury trial of all 9 counts of animal cruelty and one count of animals at large for neglecting to provide proper care for 10 goats and a calf at his property in Boston Township.

The adult animals were tied up outside with ropes and chain on a hot, humid day in June without shade or access to water. Some leads were tangled severely restricting the animals’ movement. One adult goat and a kid were tangled or had legs caught in a pile of lumber with protruding nails. Most of the animals were excessively thin, and suffering from dehydration and other parasites, including lice, The examining veterinarian concluded that they were all at risk of dying from heat stroke, given their weakened body condition and the weather.

The animals were seized and eventually surrendered by the Defendant to Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary.

The Defendant was sentenced to 90 days in jail on each of 9 counts of cruelty, and 30 days on the animals at large count. All jail time was suspended, contingent upon the Defendant’s successful completion of 5 years’ probation. During that time, he is prohibited from keeping farm animals on any property he owns or controls. Humane officers have authority to inspect the premises to ensure compliance. He is also required to complete a course in farm animal care, at least 8 hours in duration, and to complete 150 hours of community service for the Humane Society. Total fines were $4,750, of which all was suspended except for $950. Restitution was ordered to Happy Trails in the amount of $1,200.

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Cat Crossing Operators Pled Guilty to Filthy Conditions, Neglect

State of Ohio v. Mary Wawyrtko, Joseph Scott Gray, and Jessica Oslander, cases prosecuted for the Cleveland Animal Protective League.

Wawyrtko, Gray, and Oslander were the primary operators of The Cat Crossing rescue and sanctuary. They were charged with multiple counts related to 147 neglected cats kept in filthy conditions at the sanctuary.

Wawrytko has operated cat rescues for a number of years. In 2011, Wawrytko’s Columbus Avenue sanctuary was shut down and Tails From The City – Cleveland took in 106 cats from that facility. In 2012, Wawrytko opened a new sanctuary on W25th Street called “The Cat Crossing”, which became the subject of multiple complaints. Over the years, the Cleveland APL issued advice and warnings based on lack of appropriate quarantine procedures, adequate veterinary records, and waste odor permeating the building due to lack of cleanliness and soiled carpet.

In January 2015, a new complaint led to yet another investigation. This time, the conditions had deteriorated to the point that 147 of the cats were taken from the facility. All of the cats in the facility were either free-roaming or contained in wire crates that allowed contact with other cats. No quarantine room was established and cats infected with FeLV, FIV, ringworm, upper respiratory infections (URI), Giardia, ear mites, fleas, and other contagious diseases/parasites were allowed to freely mingle with other cats. Multiple free-roaming cats were seen sneezing blood and mucus, and the walls themselves showed visible evidence of mucus splatter. The vast majority of the cats were not being treated for these conditions, either by a veterinarian or the Defendants.

The odor of animal waste throughout the facility was overwhelming. Most of the litterboxes overflowed with waste and cats were forced to eliminate around those boxes. Space heaters were positioned throughout the cold building on flammable, unsteady objects, such as mattresses, where one witness described seeing cats congregating around the heaters and urinating in proximity.

Overcrowding, poor air quality, constant exposure to disease, and competition for resources caused these cats to suffer not only physically, but psychology from stress, leading to the deterioration of their immune systems and ultimately making them more susceptible to disease.

Wawrytko, Gray, and Oslander each pled guilty to six counts, five related to filthy conditions and one related to neglect, covering the treatment of all 147 cats. Sentencing is scheduled for November 16, 2015 at 11:00am.

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Dog Owner Found Guilty of Companion Animal Cruelty

State v. Diane Campbell, a case we prosecuted, investigated by the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the Ashland County Humane Society.

Campbell was found guilty yesterday of one count of companion animal cruelty for neglecting her dog, Thor, who suffered from severe skin infections, hair loss over a large portion of his body, flea infestation, severe itching, a severe ear infection and an embedded collar. The veterinarian, Dr. Donald Kaeser, reported that Thor has “been suffering in this condition in my medical opinion for a very long time. A dog doesn’t get in this condition overnight and has been suffering from neglect. A reasonable owner would notice this dog was miserable and needed taken to a vet within a week or less.”

Campbell was ordered to surrender all of her animals, and to have no animals for three years. Campbell will be subject to random inspections. She faces 30 days in jail if she fails to comply. She was also ordered to pay $150 fine and court costs.

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Probation for Cat Neglect

State of Ohio v. Anthony Gobis, a case prosecuted for Lake Humane Society.

Gobis was charged with animal neglect related to the care of his cat, Mufasa. Mufasa suffered from a serious facial injury that went untreated, allowing maggots, mites, and infection to set in.

Gobis pled no contest to one count of animal neglect.

He is prohibited from owning any companion animals for an indefinite period of time and was further sentenced to 4 years of probation, during which time he cannot own or keep any animal. The Humane Society is permitted to conduct random inspections to ensure compliance. Gobis must complete 80 hours of community service. If he fails to comply with these conditions, he faces 90 days in jail.

Mufasa in Recovery

Mufasa in Recovery

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