Owner of W.Va. dog shelter found in violation of bail

November 06, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - An Inwood, W.Va., woman charged last year with animal cruelty stemming from the alleged mistreatment of 149 dogs was found in violation of her bail agreement and put in jail over the weekend after authorities found 37 canines on her property.

Mara Spade, 62, of 386 Gunpowder Lane, was being held in Eastern Regional Jail without bond Monday night pending a bond reinstatement hearing requested hours earlier by her attorney, Dale Buck, according to jail and Berkeley County Magistrate court records. A hearing was not scheduled as of Monday afternoon.

On Friday, Magistrate Joan V. Bragg signed an order revoking and forfeiting Spade's $2,000 personal recognizance bond after reviewing a motion filed by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Matthew L. Harvey, who received complaints from residents.

With the animal cruelty charge still pending in magistrate court, a bail condition specified by Bragg that Spade not have possession of "any animals" until the case was resolved was still in effect, Harvey said in his motion. A trial is set for Dec. 4.


In an affidavit obtained by Berkeley County Animal Control Officer Donna McMahan, James Parsons identified himself as the caretaker of the dogs, which were found at 556 Gerrardstown Road.

"I take care of the dogs and all that needs fixed on the premises and I work for Mara Spade and (another woman) for my place to live," Parsons said.

Another man, who has filed a civil complaint against Spade in August regarding dog barking in a landlord-tenant dispute, said in an affidavit that he saw 15 to 20 dogs at the property over a four-month period, beginning in May 2007.

Max H. Simpson said he had been asked to tell Animal Control officers, if they happened to investigate, that the dogs belonged to him, but he refused.

"These dogs were kept approx. 50 (feet) from my bedroom and this is in violation of lease..." Simpson said.

"Ms. Spade assured me she was within the law," Simpson concluded in his statement McMahan obtained on Friday.

In response to the civil complaint asking for a rent refund, security deposit and $1,500 in damages for lost wages, Spade denied running a dog rescue and said she wasn't aware of Simpson's concerns.

She also countered that Simpson posted advertising on her property without consent and left the property in dire condition.

According to Berkeley County Courthouse records, Spade purchased the Gerrardstown, W.Va., area property where the dogs were discovered for $280,000 in December 2006, about six months after Bragg arraigned her on the animal cruelty charge.

In a June 29, 2006, visit to Spade's shelter, Second Chance Rescue Inc., a Martinsburg-area veterinarian along with a Berkeley County Sheriff's Department deputy reported seeing numerous dogs exhibiting lameness, poor skin and haircoats and open wounds, according to court records. Canine pens throughout the facility had inadequate ventilation, water and food and they also found a dead dog, according to the deputy's complaint.

After being seized, the animals remained in the custody of Animal Control until Spade failed to post a bond for their care at the end of February 2007, which by then exceeded $100,000 in expenses, officials had said. Five of the dogs that were initially taken from Spade died.

In a July 2006 hearing, Bragg found probable cause that the animals were not receiving proper care. Since then, the case was appealed to circuit court and then to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia by attorney Paul Taylor. In a 3-2 decision in November 2006, the state's high court refused to prevent the enforcement of the lower court orders, which demanded Spade post the bond for the dogs' care.

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