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Ex-W.Va. shelter owner gets probation on cruelty conviction

February 05, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A woman charged with animal cruelty in 2006 while operating a Berkeley County canine shelter that housed 149 dogs was sentenced Monday to two years of probation and ordered not to have any contact with animals for five years.

Mara Spade, 63, of Inwood, W.Va., had 86 days of the sentence suspended, but was ordered by Magistrate Joan V. Bragg to pay a $300 fine and court costs within 180 days.

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Harvey told Bragg the state would be seeking about $114,000 in restitution for the county's care of the canines after Animal Control officers began seizing them, beginning in May 2006.

A restitution hearing was expected to be scheduled in about 30 days, and defense attorney Paul G. Taylor told Bragg he wanted to reserve the right to contest the amount the state alleges his client owes for care of the animals while their custody was being contested by Spade.

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Taylor suggested the restitution could be applied to Spade or the shelter, Second Chance Rescue Inc.

The shelter was incorporated in November 1997, and Spade, of 386 Gunpowder Lane, is the director, according to records from the West Virginia Secretary of State's office.

Spade on Dec. 3 entered a no-contest plea to animal cruelty.

The animal cruelty charge filed against Spade stemmed from a June 29, 2006, visit by a veterinarian to the shelter, which was off Harlan Springs Road. The veterinarian reported that many of the dogs appeared lame. Others had poor skin and haircoats and open wounds in pens that had inadequate ventilation, sanitation, water and food.

The plea nixed a scheduled trial almost 17 months after Spade was arrested on July 12, 2006.

Bragg said she decided the sentencing terms after reviewing a psychological evaluation. Bragg later modified the number of days in the suspended jail term after Spade told the court she had served four days last year after her bond was revoked when authorities found evidence she had possession of more dogs. Bragg specifically prohibited Spade to have contact with animals during the defendant's arraignment hearing, according to court records.

The restitution the state claims is owed is based upon a $5 daily fee charged for each seized dog's care, which amounted to $164,883 while they were in the custody of Berkeley County Animal Control between May 2006 and March 2007, according to court records.

Spade initially posted two $25,000 bonds to pay for the dogs' care and retained the opportunity to regain custody of the canines pending the outcome of the case after the first four or five animals were seized on May 24, 2006.

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