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Officers investigate animal neglect case



Published: Tue, January 29, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



There is no law against keeping animals in a filthy home, one official said.

By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

POLAND -- The furniture was gone and the family had moved out of a Renwick Drive home, but police and an Animal Charity officer say the residents had not yet moved their eight pets, which were found in less-than-favorable conditions.

Officials said three dogs, two cats, a rabbit, a small alligator and a snake were left in the house. Police found the snake dead in an aquarium in the home's basement.

Police officers and Dave Nelson of Animal Charity went to the house Wednesday to check on the welfare of animals being kept inside. Looking through the windows, officers saw feces throughout the lower level and, according to police reports, a whimpering dog peeking out an upstairs window.

When the landlord arrived to let the officers into the home, they were met by what is described as a "repulsive odor" coming from inside. Upstairs, reports said, the dog was found closed in a room with more feces on the floor and no food or water.

Unbearable smell: Two cats were found closed in other rooms of the house. The cats had been left food and water. Nelson said the smell of ammonia from cat urine was so strong that the group could only reach the top step leading to the second level before it became unbearable.

The rest of the animals were found in the basement, all with food and some water to drink. Nelson said he could not be sure what caused the death of the snake.

A neighbor of the couple who had lived in the house told police that the couple was seen moving furniture out of the home on the afternoon of Jan. 18. The neighbor said one person had been back to the house since then, but did not stay long enough to care for the animals.

Nelson contacted the former residents, who said they had already removed two of the dogs a few days before police arrived and would tend to the other animals. He said the couple apparently got busy in the moving process and did not allow time to care for all of the animals.

One dog taken: Nelson took possession of one dog because the animal was left without food or water.

The other animals were not taken, he explained, because Ohio law says an animal must be in immediate danger or starving before he can take custody. Otherwise, he must wait 15 hours and return with a search warrant.

Because there was food and water available to the animals, they would not be considered in immediate danger, he said.

Nelson said he will take his findings to the prosecutor in Struthers court, but it is unlikely that any charges will be filed. He said there is no law against keeping animals in a filthy home.

"Was this a case of neglect? Yes. But was it cruelty? No," he said. "This is someone with a lot of animals and not enough time."

jgoodwin@vindy.com




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