Circuit court judge upholds taking dogs from woman charged

July 20, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The former director of a canine shelter in Berkeley County, W.Va., said this week she took money out of her retirement to retain the opportunity to gain custody of 149 dogs authorities alleged were being mistreated and seized.

Mara Spade of 386 Gunpowder Lane, Inwood, W.Va., operated Second Chance Rescue Inc., until the last remaining animals were taken from the shelter off Harlan Springs Road earlier this month by Berkeley County Sheriff's Department deputies and Animal Control officers. Officials began seizing the animals in May.

Spade, 61, since has been charged with one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty and Berkeley County Magistrate Joan V. Bragg last week ordered the dogs remain in state custody after finding probable cause in the case. A hearing date for Spade's case was not immediately known. But she could lose custody of the dogs if a bond for their care is not maintained, according to court records.


In a June 29 visit to Spade's shelter, a Martinsburg-area veterinarian reported seeing "numerous dogs exhibiting lameness, poor skin/haircoats and open wounds" in pens throughout a facility that had inadequate ventilation, horrible sanitation, inadequate water and food.

"It would be my recommendation to remove dogs from this location," Todd V. Sauble concluded in a statement filed in magistrate court.

As part of Bragg's decision, Spade was ordered to pay a $25,000 bond to pay for 30 days of care for the animals or surrender ownership of them to Animal Control.

Circuit court judge Christopher C. Wilkes Wednesday upheld the magistrate's decision in a last-minute appeal filed by Spade's attorney, Paul G. Taylor, who asked Bragg's order be suspended.

Wilkes disagreed with Taylor's arguments, including one that the bond set by Bragg was excessive. Noting anticipated veterinary bills and other expenses, Wilkes stated the bond amounted to $168 per dog and indicated state code clearly supported Bragg's jurisdictional right to issue the order.

Without receiving the bond money, it wasn't immediately clear how long the County could keep the dogs, but Animal Control officer E.N. Webber said Tuesday the agency's facility was "definitely strapped" by the situation.

"We will try to hold onto them as long as we possibly can," Webber said.

If convicted of the misdemeanor, Spade could be sentenced up to six months in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine.

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