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Couple to pay fines on animal cruelty charges

February 16, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - The Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter spent thousands of dollars after it took in 63 mostly sick and undernourished dogs last month, but will be getting some of the money back under an agreement structured by Magisterial District Judge Richard Alloway and the attorney for a couple that ran an illegal kennel.

Tim and Cindy Keller of 5823 Mountain Road, Chambersburg, were issued citations last month on eight counts each of animal cruelty and one count each of operating a kennel without a license. Alloway set fines last month of $4,300 each, plus costs.

Alloway said at the time the couple could plead guilty and pay the fines, or enter a not guilty plea and have a hearing.

Instead, Alloway said an agreement was reached with the couple's attorney, Joseph Curcillo, in which they pleaded guilty to three of the cruelty charges and the illegal kennel charge and each agreed to pay about $1,900 in fines.

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Under the agreement, they pleaded not guilty to the other five cruelty charges, which would have carried another $2,500 in fines each, Alloway said.

"We will set up a hearing date, however, the attorney is asking for a continuance on the five counts in order for them to make a donation in lieu of fines to help defray the cost incurred by the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter," Alloway said. The Kellers will pay a set amount each month into an escrow account set up by their attorney, he said.

"He will, in turn, mail a check to the animal shelter and fax proof of payment," to Alloway's office, Alloway said.

"If they stop making payments, I can then set a hearing date," he said. The donations will be equal to the fines that would have been imposed, he said.

The counts to which they pleaded not guilty will be dismissed once the full donations have been paid, he said.

The judge said he could not legally order the Kellers to pay restitution to the shelter for its care and feeding of the dogs because the couple signed them over when they were seized from the kennel, meaning the animals no longer were their property.

"We crafted this solution. We think it makes sense," he said.

"I salute Rich Alloway's innovative decision that considers the shelter's expenses," said Alan Loessy, vice president of the shelter.

The shelter's interest was in rescuing, rehabilitating and adopting the dogs, not about money, Loessy said. Nevertheless, he thanked Alloway for "considering our unusual expenses" in the case.

Last month, he said the shelter's costs likely exceeded $5,000 for medical care, spaying and neutering, feeding and caring for the animals.

"It probably costs us an average of $250 for every animal we handle and our adoption fees are about half that," Loessy said.

The public and rescue groups have helped by adopting and taking in most of the dogs, Loessy said.

"I think we're down to about 10 now" from the original 63 taken in, he said.

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