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State v. Paul

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Ashland

May 30, 2017

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
SANDRA RAE PAUL Defendant-Appellant

         Criminal appeal from the Ashland Municipal Court, Case No. 15-CRB-01023

         JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J. Hon. Earle E. Wise, J.

          For Plaintiff-Appellee JOHN HOLLAND

          For Defendant-Appellant JOSEPH KEARNS, JR.

          JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J. Hon. Earle E. Wise, J.

          OPINION

          GWIN, P.J.

         {¶1} Appellant Sandra Rae Paul ["Paul"] appeals her conviction and sentence after a bench trial in the Ashland Municipal Court on one count of animal cruelty in violation of Loudonville Ordinance 618.05(A)(2), a second-degree misdemeanor.

         Facts and Procedural History

         {¶2} On or about September 01, 2015, Paul had driven from property she owned in Jeromesville, Ohio to an apartment she had in the Village of Loudonville, Ohio. She had 17 chickens with her packed up in three large Tupperware plastic tubs, with top grates and chicken waterers. She brought them with her due to fears of possible predators killing them if left unattended at the Jeromesville property. Upon arriving in the parking lot by the apartment, she parked her 1995 Chrysler minivan with the rear facing south, and went to the apartment at about 10:00 a.m.

         {¶3} Tom Crist, a maintenance worker at the Loudon Bluffs Apartment complex in Loudonville, Ohio, approached a dark green van in the parking lot in response to complaints from other residents. The van was in a position where it would be in the direct sun without shade all during the day. It was a humid, with temperatures in the mid-eighties. The front windows of the van were opened about one and one half to two inches.

         {¶4} Crist saw one chicken inside the van that appeared to be dead, and one that appeared to be alive. There was a strong odor of dead animals coming from the vehicle. The van was piled with many objects, including a kitchen sink. The amount of chicken feces inside the van appeared to have accumulated over three or four days.

         {¶5} Crist called his supervisor and the police. After the police arrived, Paul, who was a resident of Loudon Bluffs Apartments, approached and admitted that she was keeping chickens in the van.

         {¶6} Officer Michael Barrett of the Loudonville Police arrived around 7:46 pm. He confirmed a strong smell of dead animals coming from the vehicle. It was very hot inside the van. A wave of heat came from the interior when the door was opened. Paul told the officer that chickens can stand heat, and then commented, "If they die, they die."

         {¶7} Crist noted a concern with Paul's appearance, due possibly to her illness or medication and would not permit her to drive the chickens back to the property in Jeromesville, but he called a friend that he believed was familiar with chickens to remove them. This person, Tiffany Meyer, a realtor, arrived after the sun had set, and had two cat carriers, measuring approximately 2 feet x 18 inches x 18 inches, or 18 inches x 12 inches x 12 inches, depending on the description, to carry the seventeen chickens. Ms. Meyers stuffed the chickens into the two carriers. All chickens were alive when removed from the van by Ms. Meyer. Ms. Meyers took the chickens to a client's barn and left them there for the night. The next day, she discovered one had died. Ms. Meyers admitted that it was possible the one chicken suffered injuries during transportation to the barn.

         {¶8} Paul was cited at about 8:05 PM, or about 20 minutes after the officer arrived on scene.

         {¶9} Dr. Melissa Ferry testified as a veterinarian with specific expertise in and knowledge of birds and livestock standards. Dr. Ferry opined that, under the conditions described in this case, the ambient temperature inside the van would have been conservatively 130 to 140 degrees. It would take about forty minutes for the temperature to rise to that level inside the van. Dr. Ferry said that chickens under these conditions would have become sick or in some other way suffered. She said that exposure to this severe heat was the likely cause of death for the one that died.

         {¶10} Paul testified in her own defense. Paul admitted that she arrived in the van at the apartment complex with the chickens around "9 or 10 am." Paul portrayed herself as a person who had experience with chickens. She kept flocks of up to 70 birds for seven or eight years. Paul was once employed as an animal control officer, with specific training in the animal cruelty and neglect laws of the State of Ohio. Paul testified September 1, 2015 was the very first time she ever had the chickens at the Loudonville Apartment. She said she was compelled to move the chickens that day because rodents were killing them. Paul was unable to remember when rodents killed any of the chickens, or how many were killed. Paul testified the van she drove had eight total windows, including the windshield and back window. The other six windows she said were open. This included the two conventional roll-down windows for the driver and front passenger, as well as four tilt-out windows on the sides of the van. Several of the windows were tinted.

         {¶11} Paul was found guilty after a bench trial of animal cruelty in violation of Loudonville Ordinance 618.05(A) (2), a second-degree misdemeanor. The trial court sentenced Paul to ninety days in jail, consecutive with the thirty days she was already ordered to serve for failure to previously appear. Seventy days were suspended pending successful completion of two years' probation. Paul was fined $100 plus court costs.

         Assignments of Error

         {¶12} "I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY FINDING THE APPELLANT GUILTY WHEN THE FINDING WAS AGAINST THE ...


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