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Dogs getting a second chance, again

July 16, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

INWOOD, W.Va. - They're dogs getting a second chance at a second chance.

After a court order required that all dogs be removed from the property of Mara Spade, who founded Second Chance Rescue in Inwood more than eight years ago, Spade scrambled to find homes for dogs that had not yet been adopted.

Spade said some went to similar no-kill rescue shelters while others will be kept on the property of a man whose land is not subject to the same restrictions as Spade's.

The man is allowing Spade to use the land for free until she can move into a more appropriate place.

The saga of Second Chance Rescue began with a group of neighbors three years ago and ended around 1 a.m. Thursday, after Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes gave Spade 30 days to remove all of the dogs from her property in Pine Ridge Estates, a wooded subdivision.

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"We were up 'til 1 o'clock" (in the morning) Thursday moving the dogs, Spade said. "But we did it. The dogs are adjusting."

In her new surroundings, Spade said she liquidated her retirement account to build a fence around the acre of land, which is surrounded by cow pastures.

Spade said she called the nearest neighbor to see if he heard any barking and he said he didn't.

Walls inside an old trailer on the property will be knocked down so the dogs can go in and Spade said she expects to stay with them at night.

"I love it. That's what you do when you're committed," Spade said. "The dogs need me here."

Spade said she will continue to rescue dogs that are scheduled to be euthanized and find them suitable homes.

The only difference, she said, is that she will not keep the dogs on her property.

"I'm not going to stop doing what I do because it's just too satisfying," Spade said. "I save too many lives."

The tale began in 2001, when 11 of Spade's neighbors sued her, saying the dogs barked, got loose and caused an odor to permeate throughout the neighborhood, according to paperwork filed in Circuit Court. They said the dogs were not allowed because of a subdivision covenant preventing any commercial businesses.

Before a jury trial could be held, Wilkes ruled that the neighbors were correct and, in May 2002, ordered Spade to cease running the nonprofit rescue operation from her home. Spade removed a sign and no longer allowed people to drop off or pick up dogs, according to court paperwork and Spade's attorney, Paul Weiss, with Martin & Seibert.

Everything was quiet for a couple of years until a new neighbor moved in and recently renewed the matter.

On June 14, Wilkes held a hearing with the new neighbor and Spade. He admonished Spade for what he alleged to be a violation of his previous order and gave her 30 days to get rid of the dogs.

"I understand what you do, and that's great. The problem is you can't do it from that property," Wilkes said, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Wilkes said if the dogs were not gone after 30 days Spade would be fined $100 a day and that he would refer the case to the prosecutor's office for possible criminal charges.

Asked if she could keep her five pet dogs, Spade was told she couldn't. Wilkes said he feared she would claim 40 dogs were her pets, according to the transcript.

Weiss said Spade may file an appeal, claiming Wilkes' order is vague about what constitutes a commercial use.

"Every newspaper boy, every Avon lady, everybody who holds a yard sale could be in violation," Weiss said.

He cited a precedent case that says a business is commercial if it creates an "observable difference" in an area. Because Spade ceased to have any signs or allow any potential customers to visit, a newcomer would not know she was running a dog shelter, Weiss said. He added that someone might simply have thought she had a lot of pets.

Dogs are allowed in the subdivision and, according to court paperwork, many who live there have one dog or more.

Once her finances are in order, Spade said she wants to move to a place where she can keep her pets and the adoptable dogs - like Gyro, a "handsome" Shepherd mix who is house-trained and great with children - with her.

Until then, she remains optimistic.

"I guess it's going to put me in a better place because all change is good," she said.

To see photographs and read descriptions of Gyro and other dogs that are available for adoption go to www.secondchancerescue.net.

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