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Berkeley County woman ordered to pay $114,883 for dogs' care

149 animals were seized from shelter

149 animals were seized from shelter

March 27, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A Berkeley County magistrate on Wednesday ordered a woman to pay $114,883 in restitution for the county's care of 149 dogs that were seized from a canine shelter in 2006 after authorities found evidence of animal cruelty there.

Magistrate Joan V. Bragg last month sentenced Mara Spade, 63, of Inwood, W.Va., to two years of probation and ordered her not to have any contact with animals for five years after she entered a no-contest plea in December to a misdemeanor count of animal cruelty.

Bragg on Wednesday granted a motion by county assistant prosecuting attorney Matthew L. Harvey to order the restitution, which he argued was already established in previous magistrate and circuit court orders concerning the case.

Spade's attorney, Paul G. Taylor, said after the hearing that he intended to contest Bragg's decision - either by withdrawing the no-contest plea or appealing the case to circuit court.

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"If the court's not going to give her a restitution hearing, then she would like a new trial," Taylor told Bragg.

In the February sentencing hearing, Taylor told Bragg he wanted to reserve the right to contest the amount of restitution the state alleged that his client owed for the care of the animals while the animal cruelty case was still pending against Spade.

Harvey said Wednesday that Taylor had the right to contest the amount of expenses the county said it incurred from the time the first dogs at Second Chance Rescue Inc. off Harlan Springs Road were seized in May 2006 until the end of February 2007.

"It was never challenged," Harvey told Bragg. "They had that right and they missed (the deadline for an appeal).

Taylor argued on Wednesday that his client entered the no-contest plea with the understanding that she would be able to contest the state's restitution claim.

The dogs were released from the county's custody at the end of February 2007 after Spade failed to post a court-ordered bond to cover $114,883.77 in "actual expenses" and another $25,000 for anticipated care covering 30 more days.

The state based its restitution claim on a $5 daily fee charged for each seized dog's care and other expenses, including veterinary services that amounted to $164,883 while they were in the custody of Berkeley County Animal Control, according to court records.

Spade 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, which was appealed to Berkeley County Circuit court and the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

After a magistrate court hearing in February 2007, Spade said she could not post a bond for the cost of the dogs' care through the end of March, which county officials projected would have amounted to about $139,000 in expenses.

By February 2007, Spade had relinquished the opportunity to regain custody of 50 of the canines and five others had died since they were seized, officials had said.

The animal cruelty charge stemmed from a veterinarian's visit to the Second Chance Rescue on June 29, 2006, and his observations about the dogs' physical appearance and the conditions of the shelter.

The shelter had "inadequate ventilation, horrible sanitation, inadequate water and food," the veterinarian wrote in a handwritten statement.

The doctor also said he observed a "multiple number of dogs with open wounds and lameness (and) puppies exhibiting 'pot bellies' and diarrhea," according to court records.

Animal Control officials reported finding the carcass of a dog that was decomposing "with small white worms crawling on it" at the shelter, according to court records.

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