Shannon Clarke gets jail term for burning, abusing dog

By jeanne starmack


A man convicted of animal cruelty in the burning and abandonment of a dog last year was sentenced Friday.

Shannon Clarke, 35, was sentenced to six to 18 months in jail by Judge Thomas Dobson of Mercer County Common Pleas Court.

Clarke can appeal his sentence because his attorney does not agree that Pennsylvania law provides for incarceration for his offense.

Brian Farrone, assistant district attorney, said that if Clarke posts $100, or 10 percent of a $1,000 bond, he can be free until June 1, the deadline for filing an appeal. If he files an appeal, he can be free pending its outcome. Clarke was still in jail late Friday afternoon.

“I want to apologize,” Clarke told the judge. “I didn’t cause the injuries, but I did drop the dog off.”

It was a little more than a year ago when the year-old hound mix was found in the North Flats section of Sharon, near an abandoned warehouse.

A Sharon police officer found the dog, which had a splash burn over more than 50 percent of its body, on April 10, 2011. It also had three broken teeth and was emaciated.

An investigation revealed that the dog, then named Roscoe, was owned by Raelynn Van Tassel, 24, and Clarke. The two had him at their Baldwin Avenue home since he was a puppy.

A friend of the couple’s testified at a court hearing last May that the dog spent the night at their house April 7, and he was in the basement limping and whimpering. The friend said he and Clarke left the dog in the North Flats on April 8.

Van Tassel, who watched Clarke’s sentencing Friday, pleaded guilty last June to a neglect charge.

She told The Vindicator the dog was injured while she was away for several days. She said she does not know how the dog got burned, and that she thought Clarke and his friend were taking him to a friend’s farm or to the Humane Society.

The dog spent six weeks in treatment at the Hermitage Veterinary Hospital. Humane Society representatives at Friday’s sentencing questioned why restitution for $11,000 in vet bills wasn’t made a part of Clarke’s sentence. They said they submitted vet bills, but Farrone said his office never saw them.

He said the Humane Society can submit a request to amend the sentence to the district attorney’s office within 10 days.

The dog’s new owners also were at the sentencing. Jennifer and Mike Unrue of Sharon happened to be in the area the night the dog, whom they’ve renamed Chance, was found. Mike Unrue, a Sharon firefighter, stayed with Chance until a humane officer arrived.

They said they believe Clarke’s sentence isn’t long enough.

“Like any victim, [Chance] has to live with what happened,” Jennifer Unrue said.

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