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neglect of horses

Courts may order forfeiture of horses in animal cruelty case

On September 20, 2019, the 11th District Court of Appeals in Ohio held that a sentencing court may order an animal cruelty offender to forfeit horses as a condition of probation without going through the more cumbersome process of a full forfeiture proceeding.

The history of this case is complicated. Defendant Bianca Marcellino was convicted after a jury trial of two counts of animal cruelty for neglecting two horses, which were found to be emaciated and suffering from rain rot. Bianca Marcellino stated in a sworn affidavit that she was the sole owner of the horses. However, just before her sentencing hearing, Bianca’s mother, Karen Marcellino, filed a motion claiming to be the owner in an attempt to block forfeiture of the horses to the Geauga County Humane Society. The Court found that there was no evidence supporting Karen’s claim and ordered the horses to be forfeited.

The horses were rehabilitated by the Humane Society and placed in a new home. 

Karen filed an appeal. The Court of Appeals dismissed her case, finding that the case was moot, as the horses were already placed with a new home. State v. Marcellino, 11th Dist. Geauga Nos. 2019-G-0199, 2019-G-0200, 2019-Ohio-3329. Karen filed a motion to reconsider, claiming that there should have been a separate forfeiture proceeding beyond the sentencing in her daughter’s case.

The Court of Appeals denied the motion to reconsider. This appears to be the first appellate case in Ohio holding specifically that a sentencing court may order forfeiture of livestock as a condition of probation under R.C. 959.99(D) without further court proceedings.

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Wauseon, Ohio man guilty of neglecting pony

State v. Andrew Fox, a case we prosecuted for the Toledo Area Humane Society in the Sylvania Municipal Court.

Andrew Fox was found guilty of one count of animal cruelty for neglecting the care of one horse and one pony. The animals were kept in filthy conditions. The issue of greatest concern was the fact that the pony had very long, overgrown hooves which made it difficult for the animal to walk normally, and caused unnecessary suffering.

Defendant voluntarily surrendered both animals to the Humane Society. Sentencing is scheduled for May 14, 2015.

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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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