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Hearing will determine what woman will pay in animal cruelty case

Berkeley Co. Animal Control cared for 149 dogs seized in 2006

June 04, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --A restitution hearing will be held to determine what an Inwood, W.Va., woman will pay for the Berkeley County Animal Control's care of 149 dogs seized from a canine shelter in a 2006 animal cruelty case.

The hearing ordered in the state's case against Mara Spade, 65, was part of a decision filed Friday by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, which reversed 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes' decision and sent the case back to Berkeley County Magistrate Court.

"It is clear to this court that the appellant entered into a valid plea agreement that required a restitution hearing to be held soon thereafter (in magistrate court) and this was specifically agreed to by all parties," the Supreme Court concluded.

"It is further clear that such a hearing did not occur. As such, the circuit court abused its discretion in affirming the magistrate court's order."

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Spade pleaded no contest in 2007 to one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty in magistrate court and was ordered to pay $114,883 in restitution for the care of the dogs seized from Second Chance Rescue, the nonprofit, no-kill dog rescue shelter she said she started in Berkeley County in 1996.

Spade said the shelter was dedicated to sheltering, caring for, and placing abandoned and homeless dogs that are often refused by other shelters, according to court records. Many of the dogs arrived at the shelter with existing health problems, and the appellant contends that she would attempt to nurse the animals back to health at her own expense, according to court records.

In a sentencing hearing in February 2008, Spade was ordered by Berkeley County Magistrate Joan V. Bragg not to have any contact with animals for five years and was placed on two years of probation. A 90-day jail sentence was suspended.

In March 2008, Bragg ordered Spade to pay the restitution, which defense attorney Paul Taylor again questioned in an interview Friday.

"We had a (plea) deal that she didn't get the benefit of," Taylor said.

Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Christopher C. Quasebarth said Friday that the prosecuting attorney's office would renew their argument that the restitution amount was the actual reasonable costs incurred in providing care, medical treatment and provisions to the animals seized.

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

The animal cruelty charge stemmed from a veterinarian's visit to the Second Chance Rescue on June 29, 2006.

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

Five dogs died while in the county's custody, officials have said.

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