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State, Lake County Humane Society v. Taylor

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Lake

February 26, 2018

STATE OF OHIO, LAKE COUNTY HUMANE SOCIETY, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DAVID TAYLOR, Defendant-Appellant.

         Criminal Appeal from the Willoughby Municipal Court, Case No. 2016 CRB 03785.

          J. Jeffrey Holland, Holland & Muirden, 143 Sharon-Copley Road, P.O. Box 345, Sharon Center, OH 44274 (For Plaintiff-Appellee).

          Charles R. Grieshammer, Lake County Public Defender, and Vanessa R. Clapp, Assistant Public Defender, 125 East Erie Street, Painesville, OH 44077 (For Defendant-Appellant).

          OPINION

          DIANE V. GRENDELL, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, David Taylor, appeals from the judgment of the Willoughby Municipal Court, finding him guilty of Cruelty to Companion Animals. The issues to be determined by this court are whether the expert testimony of a veterinarian is admissible when he opines about the length of time medical conditions may have been present in a dog and whether a conviction for Cruelty to Companion Animals is supported by the weight of the evidence when testimony shows that the dog was suffering from several treatable medical conditions, and lived outside in a yard filled with debris, nails, and broken glass. For the following reasons, we affirm the decision of the lower court.

         {¶2} On September 28, 2016, complaints were filed in Case Nos. 2016 CRB 03785A-F, charging Taylor with six counts of Cruelty to Companion Animals, misdemeanors of the second degree, in violation of former R.C. 959.131(C)(2) and (3). Additional complaints were filed on October 5, 2016, in Case Nos. 2016 CRB 03785G-I, charging Taylor with three counts of Cruelty to Companion Animals, misdemeanors of the second degree, in violation of R.C. 959.131(D)(1).

         {¶3} A bench trial was held on February 9, 2017. The following pertinent testimony was presented.

         {¶4} Kasey Locotosh, a friend of Taylor's, testified that she had gone to a get together at Taylor's house around July 4, 2016, at which time Taylor's four dogs, Ariel, Earp, Igor, and Emilia were located in the yard. She noticed that Ariel looked sick and was scratching and shaking. Locotosh informed Taylor. When Locotosh returned in August, she noticed no change in Ariel's condition. She observed that the yard where the dogs were kept had little room to run and she saw no shelter other than underneath a trailer. She noted clutter and trash in the yard, as well as glass and nails on the ground.

         {¶5} In September, Taylor was scheduled to serve a jail term and, according to Locotosh, his live-in girlfriend, Susan Bradley, was supposed to take care of the dogs. A few days after he was incarcerated, Bradley told Locotosh she was leaving and Locotosh agreed to care for the dogs. She did so for approximately five days until she was locked out of the home by Taylor's son. During that time, she took Earp from the home, based on previous permission granted by Taylor. When Locotosh obtained a dog license for Earp, she showed pictures of the three other dogs to the dog warden and the Humane Society was contacted.

         {¶6} Johnny Jarrell, Locotosh's boyfriend and Taylor's friend, also noticed that Ariel looked ill and reported this to Taylor, who told him not to worry. Both Jarrell and Locotosh testified that they had been in a business relationship with Taylor before he went to jail and that the parties had some disagreements.

         {¶7} Leanne Pike, an agent for the Lake Humane Society, investigated the matter after she was contacted by the dog warden. She obtained a search warrant, observed the three dogs in poor condition, chewing and scratching themselves, and saw that they were covered with flies and fleas. Pike testified that the yard where they were living was difficult to navigate due to items laying around, pieces of dog feces were scattered about and debris, broken glass, and nails were found on the ground. She testified that "the flies were landing on [Igor] the worst out of all of them" and that his ears were bloody, scabbed, and "in terrible shape." He had open scabs on his body. She saw signs of obvious neglect given the dogs' physical condition, filthy water, and lack of access to food. Although Taylor later said he was treating the flies by using a Skin So Soft spray, she believed this was inappropriate care for the condition. Bradley told Pike that Taylor would forget to feed the dogs at times for two or three days.

         {¶8} Dr. Alvin Brown, the shelter veterinarian for the Lake County Humane Society with over 40 years of veterinary experience, treated Ariel and her two young dogs, Igor and Emilia, after they were removed from Taylor's property. Dr. Brown described all three dogs as "significantly underweight."

         {¶9} Dr. Brown testified that Igor had a chronic and "pretty severe" infestation of ear mites, which he would have gotten when he was in a "litter situation" with close, intimate contact. He believed that Igor had them for "a significant period of time, " at least six or seven months. Igor would have been excessively shaking his head during that time, which would have been obvious to a "reasonable pet owner." Dr. Brown testified that he has the training to tell how long an ear mite infestation has been present and that he could do so "easily."

         {¶10} Dr. Brown also explained that Igor was covered in flies, which is not typical and indicates that he was housed improperly. He noted that fly bites can cause animals to suffer unnecessarily. Igor also had "fly-strike" which occurs when a dog flips his head back and forth to shake flies off of its ears. This causes the ears to become nicked, bleed, and scabbed. He described this condition as "very uncomfortable, " and something that does not happen overnight or in a period of a week. Dr. Brown believed that a reasonable owner would have been aware of these issues "for a long period of time." Dr. Brown indicated that all three dogs also had fleas, which caused scratching and chewing at themselves.

         {¶11} Igor also had a "severe infestation" of whipworms. These result from dogs coming into contact with stool, which often occurs when a dog is in unhealthy or "filthy" conditions. Dr. Brown noted the large number of eggs present and opined that Igor had this condition for "at least six months." Whipworms prevent dogs ...


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