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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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Rootstown, Ohio woman found guilty of 11 counts of animal neglect

State v. Danette Kerr, a case we prosecuted for the Portage County APL was resolved today.

112 animals were seized from Kerr’s property on July 22, 2014. 18 dogs and 3 cats exhibited signs of neglect including dehydration, emaciation, matted fur, severe dental disease and a variety of untreated conditions that caused suffering.

82 birds were kept in conditions of extreme filth, including accumulation of urine and fecal ammonia which caused rescuer’s eyes to water and throat to burn. Conditions for the animals included emaciation, urine scalded feet and overgrown beaks. 29 dead birds were also found in a freezer on the property.

Horses showed various signs of neglect, including malnourishment, muscle wasting, dehydration, and excessive exposure to filth and flies.

Danette Kerr was found guilty of 6 first degree misdemeanors and 5 second degree misdemeanor charges of animal neglect. Kerr paid $14,100 for costs incurred in caring for the animals. She is on probation for 5 years. During that time, she is subject to random inspections to make sure that she is caring properly for her three current pets. She must also have a mental health assessment and follow up with recommended treatment. 

Our goal in these cases is first to save the animals, and second to prevent future incidents. In cases like this, mental health treatment along with inspections over 5 years (the maximum term of probation) has proven to be more effective for preventing future violations than an immediate jail term. If Kerr does violate any of the terms of probation, she is facing 180 days in jail.

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Robert Konst “Hollywood Bob” convicted of animal cruelty

State v. Robert Konst (a.k.a. “Hollywood Bob”), a case we prosecuted for the Geauga County Humane Society.

74 cats and one dead kitten were found at Konst’s residence and place of business in overcrowded and filthy conditions.  Animals suffered from a variety of ailments including severe upper respiratory infections, conjunctivitis, and infected and ruptured eyes. Konst was found guilty of 12 counts of companion animal cruelty.

Judge Terri Stupica of the Chardon Municipal Court placed Konst on 5 years probation, during which time he may not possess animals of any kind, is subject to random inspections, and must complete mental health treatment.  If he violates probation, Konst could serve up to 360 days in jail.  Furthermore, Konst is prohibited from keeping companion animals indefinitely, which means a lifetime ban unless the court orders otherwise in the future.

Konst must also pay a $400 fine, court costs, and restitution to the Humane Society in the amount of $3,360 as reimbursement for some of the costs associated with providing care and rehabilitation for the animals.

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Skinny Little Buddies President convicted of animal cruelty

State v. Vicki Cornell, a case we helped prosecute for the Williams County Humane Society, co-counseling with the Bryan City Prosecutor’s Office.

Cornell was found guilty of 24 counts of companion animal cruelty relating to 48 dogs kept on her residential property in Edon, Ohio.  All were allegations of severe neglect.  Some animals were extremely thin and/or lacked adequate water.  Most suffered from a variety of causes, including being forced to breathe air with high concentrations of urine and fecal ammonia, mange, wounds, ear and eye infections, fleas or flea allergies, keeping dogs in conditions where dog fights occurred, and others.  Much of the suffering was directly related to severe filth.  Cornell was the President of a nonprofit organization called Skinny Little Buddies Animal Rescue, which operated out of her home.

Cornell was sentenced to 25 days in jail for each count, all of which run consecutively, for a total of 600 days.  Jail time will be imposed if she fails to complete 5 years probation.  All animals were forfeited to the Humane Society except for four personal pets.

Cornell is prohibited from owning, possessing, caring for, or living at a residence with more than 4 animals indefinitely.  During probation, Defendant must obtain a mental health evaluation and follow up with treatment; all animals must be kept in a humane, lawful and sanitary manner, and she is subject to random inspections by the Humane Society.

Defendant was fined $100 on each count for a total of $2,400.  The Humane Society waived restitution, given the fact that there is very little likelihood that they could ever collect.

Congratulations the Williams County Humane Society, Williams County Dog Warden, and the Williams County Sheriff’s Department.  Hats off to Prosecutor Rhonda Fisher and her staff who devoted endless hours seeing this through to a successful conclusion over nearly a week of trial and hearings.

Cornell was found guilty of 24 counts of companion animal cruelty relating to 48 dogs kept on her residential property in Edon, Ohio.  All were allegations of severe neglect.  Some animals were extremely thin and/or lacked adequate water.  Most suffered from a variety of causes, including being forced to breathe air with high concentrations of urine and fecal ammonia, mange, wounds, ear and eye infections, fleas or flea allergies, keeping dogs in conditions where dog fights occurred, and others.  Much of the suffering was directly related to severe filth.  Cornell was the President of a nonprofit organization called Skinny Little Buddies Animal Rescue, which operated out of her home.

Cornell was sentenced to 25 days in jail for each count, all of which run consecutively, for a total of 600 days.  Jail time will be imposed if she fails to complete 5 years probation.  All animals were forfeited to the Humane Society except for four personal pets.

Cornell is prohibited from owning, possessing, caring for, or living at a residence with more than 4 animals indefinitely.  During probation, Defendant must obtain a mental health evaluation and follow up with treatment; all animals must be kept in a humane, lawful and sanitary manner, and she is subject to random inspections by the Humane Society.

Defendant was fined $100 on each count for a total of $2,400.  The Humane Society waived restitution, given the fact that there is very little likelihood that they could ever collect.

Congratulations to the Williams County Humane Society, Williams County Dog Warden, and the Williams County Sheriff’s Department.  Hats off to Prosecutor Rhonda Fisher and her staff who devoted endless hours seeing this through to a successful conclusion over nearly a week of trial and hearings.IMG_1863

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