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Smithsburg woman gets suspended jail sentence in animal cruelty case

September 05, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A Smithsburg woman on Thursday entered an Alford plea in Washington County Circuit Court to five counts of animal cruelty for failing to provide for doves, a cat and guinea pigs.

Under an Alford plea, defendants do not admit guilt but acknowledge the state has enough evidence for a conviction.

Bertha May Martin, 67, of 12903 Unger Road in Smithsburg, will not serve any jail time, but will be on three years of unsupervised probation, Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley ordered.

Martin was sentenced to 60 days in jail for one count of animal cruelty for a dove, another 60 days to run consecutively for another charge related to a dove, and 60 days for each of the rest of the charges, to run concurrently with the second sentence. That jail time was suspended.

Humane Society officials discovered the situation during an annual inspection for a kennel license that was denied, Humane Society spokeswoman Katherine Cooker has said.

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Martin appealed to the Washington County Animal Control Authority, which upheld the Humane Society's decision, Cooker said.

Keeping more than five dogs requires a kennel permit, according to Washington County's animal control ordinance.

Martin surrendered 20 of her dogs in May, but had been allowed to keep five dogs until Thursday.

As part of the conditions of her probation, Martin may keep two of her dogs, but authorities may inspect her home once a month, Beachley said.

"Five dogs is a substantial responsibility and out of line under these circumstances," Beachley said.

Martin also must pay $1,121.57 in restitution to the Humane Society over three years.

Martin can no longer work because of health problems, including blood clots and a heart condition, defense attorney Bernard Semler II said.

"Medical conditions severely hamper her ability to function on a daily basis," he said.

Martin had the best of intentions when she took in several of the dogs, but it became too much, he said.

Martin began sobbing as Semler spoke to the judge.

"Just let me keep my babies," she told Beachley.

"That doesn't ring very true. You were abusing these animals," the judge said.

Another woman, Patty Burkett, 64, also of 12903 Unger Road in Smithsburg, pleaded guilty in March to one count of animal cruelty, failing to provide a dove with nutritious food in sufficient quantity, proper drink, air, space or veterinary care.

Burkett was sentenced in May to 15 months of probation, during which she is forbidden from having responsibility for any pets or animals, Washington County District Court records show.

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