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Lake Humane Society

Being a volunteer is no defense to animal cruelty

The 11th District Court of Appeals rejected the argument that a volunteer cannot be criminally liable for animal cruelty or neglect.

Facts.  Jo Ann Brantweiner was charged with 8 counts of companion animal cruelty involving a total of 97 dogs and cats.  The animals were kept by a nonprofit organization known as the Animal Rescue Center in conditions of extreme filth.  The odor of urine and fecal ammonia caused their eyes and throat to burn.  Many animals were suffering from untreated illnesses, untreated, open wounds, emaciation and dehydration.  One had an exposed tendon.

Brantweiner was one of the main volunteers who cared for the animals. 

Brantweiner took her case to the Court of Appeals, claiming that a volunteer cannot be criminally responsible for animal neglect.  The Court rejected that argument.  A defendant can be a “custodian” or “caretaker” of an animal, subject to animal cruelty laws, even though she was an unpaid volunteer.

Brantweiner was ordered as part of sentencing to pay $85,000 restitution for the care of the animals prior to trial.  The Court of Appeals held that a trial court is not required to warn a defendant about the possibility of being ordered to pay restitution for care of neglected animals prior to trial, and failure to do so does not make the plea involuntary.  [Her restitution order was later reduced to $1,000 due to inability to pay.]

The case was investigated by the Eastlake Police Department with assistance from Lake Humane Society.

The Case citationState v. Brantweiner, 11th Dist. Lake Nos. 2019-L-155, 2019-L-156, 2019-L-157, 2019-L-158, 2019-L-159, 2019-L-160, 2019-L-161, 2019-L-162, 2020-Ohio-5235.

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Special sanctions for Ohio animal hoarders

Inside the ARC facility

The 11th District Court of Appeals upheld a number of notable, special sanctions in an animal hoarding case we prosecuted in the Willoughby Municipal Court for the Eastlake Police Department.

Facts:  Defendant Nadine Betchel operated a loosely organized nonprofit animal rescue operation called the Animal Resource Center in Eastlake, Ohio.  Officers executed a search warrant at the property.  Officers found 97 dogs and cats living in conditions of filth with high concentrations of urine and fecal ammonia.  Many were suffering from untreated medical issues.  All were deemed to be suffering unnecessarily by the veterinarian on scene and were removed and impounded at the Lake Humane Society.

Defendant was found guilty of eight counts of companion animal cruelty involving all 97 animals.

Here are the highlights from the Court of Appeals:

(a) A court may impose a lifetime ban on possessing companion animals.
(b) A court may order an offender to reimburse a humane society for costs of care and rehabilitation of victims of companion animal cruelty.
(c) $85,296.10 in restitution is not an unconstitutionally excessive fine, especially where the defendant makes efforts to prevent the humane society from adopting out the animals.
(d) A prosecution for companion animal cruelty does not require a finding of probable cause in an R.C. 959.132 civil forfeiture hearing. The two proceedings are separate and distinct.
(e) A court may only order 18 months in jail as the maximum term of consecutive misdemeanors.  If the trial court errs by ordering a longer term, the sentence may be simply modified and reduced to 18 months by the appellate court.

The Case:  State v. Bechtel, 11th Dist. Lake Nos. 2019-L-145, 2019-L-146, 2019-L-147, 2019-L-148, 2019-L-149, 2019-L-150, 2019-L-151, 2019-L-152, 2020-Ohio-4889

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Jailtime for Man Convicted of 9 Counts of Companion Animal Cruelty

State v. David Taylor a case we prosecuted for the Lake Humane Society resulting in a lifetime ban from keeping companion animals.

Taylor was convicted in the Willoughby Municipal Court of 9 counts of companion animal cruelty after trial for neglecting his three dogs, who were kept in a cluttered, dirty yard full of debris, including broken glass and nails. They suffered from severe flea infestation, open abrasions, bacterial infection, severe ear mites, fly strikes and whipworms.

In addition to the ban on keeping animals, Taylor was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 45 of which was suspended pending successful completion of one year probation including mental health assessment and treatment. He was fined $750 of which $500 is suspended.

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Jail Time and Community Service Sentence for Animal Neglect Case

State of Ohio v. Travis Wargo and Cari Welk, a case prosecuted for Lake Humane Society.

Wargo and Welk both pled guilty to animal neglect. The case involved two cats, Liam and Logan, and a dog, Lily, that were kept in deplorable conditions.The animals suffered from various untreated medical conditions. While the other animals were of good weight, Liam the cat was so painfully emaciated that when offered dog treats by the Humane Agent, he scarfed them so fast he was throwing up while he was eating them.

Both Defendants were sentenced to 5 years of probation, during which time they cannot own or harbor any animals. Lake Humane Society will conduct inspections to ensure compliance. Wargo and Welk will have to pay court costs and $3,030.00 in restitution for care of the animals to Lake Humane. Both Wargo and Welk were sentenced to serve 4 days in jail or complete 4 days of community work service. If they fail to comply with these conditions, Wargo will face an additional 356 days in jail and Welk 86 days.

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24 Animals Found in Filthy Conditions, Owner Sentenced to 5 years Probation

State of Ohio v. Sheri (Shari) Gilbert, a case prosecuted for Lake Humane Society.

Gilbert pled guilty to all 10 counts of animal neglect on the day of trial. 24 animals, including dogs, cats, parrots, a guinea pig, and ferrets, were seized from Gilbert’s home. The animals were kept in deplorable conditions and suffered from a variety of medical conditions. The foul smell of the residence was described as “beyond words.”

Gilbert was sentenced to 5 years of probation, during which time she cannot own, keep, or reside with any animal. She will undergo random inspections by Lake Humane to ensure that she is not harboring any animals. She must undergo a mental health assessment and complete recommended treatment. Gilbert paid $4,500 for the care of the 24 animals and must pay court costs. If she fails to comply with these conditions, she will face 90 days in jail and a $750 fine.


Alla, one of the dogs rescued by Lake Humane, was successfully treated and adopted.

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Jail Time for Probation Violator; Mother also Pleaded Guilty of Animal Neglect

State of Ohio v. Darlene and Alyssa Morrow, a case prosecuted for Lake Humane Society.

Darlene and Alyssa Morrow were each charged with neglect related to the care of Alyssa’s dog, Honey. Alyssa Morrow was previously convicted of animal neglect in a case prosecuted by the Painesville Police just 4 days before this incident occurred. As part of sentencing in that case, she was allowed to keep 2 dogs, including Honey, whom she described as an emotional support dog.

In this case, Alyssa admitted that Honey was ill for 2 days before she allegedly left the house to stay with a relative. While in her mother Darlene’s care, Honey further deteriorated. For that 6 day period, Honey leaked fluid from her eyes and nose and ultimately passed away from her condition. An informant led Lake Humane to discover where Honey was buried and a necropsy indicated Honey was emaciated and had likely suffered trauma to her chest, causing a cardiac tamponade. Alyssa later stated that her mother had called her multiple times to tell her to call and report the situation to Lake Humane, but she failed to do so.

Darlene pleaded guilty to one count of neglect. She must complete 5 years of probation, during which time she may have no animals and is subject to random inspections. She will further undergo mental health counseling. If she fails to comply, she faces 60 days in jail.

Alyssa also pleaded guilty to one count of neglect. She will serve 8 days in jail, one day for each of the 8 days that Honey suffered. She will further complete 7 days of community work service. She is permanently banned from all animal ownership. Alyssa must complete 5 years of probation and pay $150 in restitution to Lake Humane, as well as court costs. She will face 75 additional days in jail if she fails to comply with these conditions. Further, because Alyssa violated her probation, she must either serve 10 additional days in jail or complete 10 days of community work service.


Moose, from Alyssa Morrow’s previous case, was successfully rehabilitated by Lake Humane Society.

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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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Eastlake, Ohio residents convicted of animal neglect.

State v. Robert Fatica; State v. Laura Tamura. This is a case we prosecuted in the Willougby Municipal Court for the Lake Humane Society.

Defendants Robert Fatica and Laura Tamura were found guilty of companion animal neglect for keeping 13 cats in their home in Eastlake, Ohio in filthy conditions. The animals were matted, suffering from parasites, severe dermatitis and hair loss.

Fatica is not permitted to possess animals of any kind for 3 years; Tamura for 2 years. Both are subject to random inspections. They must pay a fine, court costs and $1,825 each in restitution to the Humane Society to repay them for the costs of rehabilitating the animals. Each one faces up to 90 days in jail if they fail to comply with the terms of probation.

filthy cat cage
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Animal cruelty conviction for cats living in waste in Mentor, Ohio.

State v. Nancy and Christopher Farley; cases we prosecuted for the Lake Humane Society.

A car was towed to a repair shop, filled with clothing and other personal items. The smell was so strong inside the vehicle that the mechanic thought it contained a dead body. He called the police who then summoned Humane Agents from the Lake Humane Society.

Two cat carriers were found under the clothing and debris, with two cats inside. The carriers were filled with urine and fecal matter, so that the animals were soaked through with liquid waste. Among other things, the cats suffered from urine scalds. As is often the case, we are not posting the worst photographs.

Defendants were found guilty in the Mentor Municipal Court of companion animal cruelty, and are prohibited from possessing companion animals indefinitely.


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Dog neglect in Lake County

GeishaIn1State v. Marcus Ranson, a case we prosecuted in the Painesville Municipal Court for the Lake Humane Society. Ranson was found guilty of two counts of companion animal cruelty regarding two dogs. Both were assessed as Body Condition Score 1. Both were surrendered to the Lake Humane Society, and have fully recovered.

Ranson is prohibited from owning, possessing or residing with any animals for five years, the maximum period of probation for this offense. He is subject to random inspections by the Lake Humane Society, and must pay restitution for the care of the dogs. If he violates any of the terms of his sentence, he faces 60 days in jail.

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