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restitution in animal case

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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