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Sheriff: Money spent by Animal Control covered by posted bond

January 19, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County Sheriff W. Randy Smith assured concerned county leaders Thursday that thousands of dollars spent by his department's Animal Control division in recent weeks was covered by a bond posted in a pending animal cruelty case involving more than 100 dogs seized last summer.

"We're only going by what the law has mandated us to do," Smith told commission President Steven C. Teufel, who counted 18 invoices, some amounting to more than $8,000, to care for the seized canines. Teufel said the invoices reviewed Thursday amounted to about $30,000.

"We're not going to keep them forever, I hope," said commission legal counsel Norwood Bentley, who then advised that the county didn't have a choice but to continue to care for the dogs until the case was settled.

Smith advised that county leaders might want to talk with county Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely about possibly expediting the state's animal cruelty case against Inwood, W.Va., resident Mara Spade, the former operator of Second Chance Rescue Inc.

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"I've even talked to the defendant's attorney," Smith said of his effort to get the case resolved.

According to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records, a Feb. 2 hearing concerning the case is scheduled before Magistrate Joan V. Bragg.

In a July 2006 hearing, Bragg found probable cause that the 149 dogs seized from the Harlan Springs Road shelter were not receiving proper care after considering a veterinarian's report that a number of the canines were "exhibiting lameness, poor skin/haircoats and open wounds" in a facility with inadequate ventilation, water and food, and "horrible sanitation."

As part of the decision, Bragg ordered Spade to pay a $25,000 bond to cover the cost of caring for the animals over a 30-day period, and subsequent bonds have been posted since, according to court records.

Since Bragg's ruling July 19, the case was appealed to circuit court, then to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

In a 3-2 decision in November, the state's high court refused to prevent the enforcement of the lower court orders that Spade post the bond for the dogs' care, according to the court's Web site. In an order entered Aug. 31, 2006, in Berkeley County Circuit Court, Judge David H. Sanders noted that expenses already exceeded $35,000 earlier that month.

Aside from the expenses for the dogs' care, Smith explained to county leaders that another invoice for goat feed and bedding stemmed from Animal Control officers' rescue of two goats, which somehow made their way onto Interstate 81 recently.

"We can't find out who the owners are," Smith said.

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