Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Licking
from the Licking County Municipal Court, Case No. 18-CRB-844
Plaintiff-Appellee AMY DAVISON Assistant City Law Director
Defendant-Appellant KEVIN J. GALL
JUDGES: Hon. William B. Hoffman, P.J., Hon. Craig R. Baldwin,
J., Hon. Earle E. Wise, Jr., J.
Appellant Brandon Cooper appeals the judgment entered by the
Licking County Municipal Court convicting him of violating
Newark Municipal Ordinance §618.051(C)(1), prohibitions
concerning companion animals, and sentencing him to ninety
days incarceration at the Licking County Justice Center, with
45 days suspended. Appellee is the state of Ohio.
OF THE FACTS AND CASE
Appellant and his girlfriend, Syndel McWhorter, moved to a
home on 12thStreet in Newark, Ohio, in May of
2017. They owned a pit bull when they moved in. When the dog
disappeared, they told their neighbor the dog knocked their
baby off the couch, so they rehomed the dog. Appellant and
McWhorter then acquired a husky puppy and a pit bull puppy
named Buckeye. In February or March of 2018, McWhorter told
the neighbor the husky bit the baby, and they gave the husky
away to become a service dog.
During the morning of April 2, 2018, the neighbor's
husband saw McWhorter digging a hole. When he told his wife,
she said, "Oh my God, they've killed another
dog." Tr. 83. She observed Appellant headed toward the
shed behind the house carrying a blanket. When she did not
see Buckeye during the next 24 hours, the neighbor called
Toby Wills, the Newark Animal Control Agent, responded to the
complaint. Appellant and McWhorter initially told him they
rehomed Buckeye because she bit one of their kids. When Wills
asked if they buried something behind the shed, they admitted
they buried Buckeye. Appellant told Wills he put Buckeye down
because the dog bit their child. Appellant told Wills he shot
the dog with an air gun, and took Wills to the shed to show
Wills where he shot the dog. Wills asked for an explanation
as to what Appellant meant by an "air gun."
Appellant told Wills he used a nail gun hooked to an air
compressor to shoot the dog. They dug up the dog's body
for further examination.
Appellant told Wills the dog had been in a cage in the house.
He and McWhorter heard the baby cry. The baby had his hand on
the cage, and an indentation on his finger from the dog's
tooth. Wills looked at the child's finger, which had a
small indentation from the dog bite. The skin was not broken,
and Appellant did not seek medical treatment for the child.
Appellant told Wills he did not seek information from a
veterinarian about euthanizing the dog because they
didn't have money.
Appellant was charged with violating Newark Municipal
Ordinance §618.051(C)(1), prohibitions concerning
companion animals, and also with falsification. The case
proceeded to jury trial in the Licking County Municipal
Dr. Jody Houser, the veterinarian who examined the dog post
mortem, testified at trial. She testified the dog was a young
puppy, and nipping or play-biting is normal behavior for a
young puppy. She testified the use of a nail gun was not an
acceptable form of euthanasia. A nail gun causes a
penetrating wound, which might not work quickly, causing
distress for the animal. She testified either of the nail
shots to the head of the puppy could have caused death, but
not likely without suffering.
McWhorter testified in Appellant's defense at trial. She
testified they got Buckeye in November of 2017, when their
baby was six months old. They had already rehomed a pit bull
puppy named Brutus because of his behavior around the baby,
and had rehomed the husky puppy because of behavior issues
around the baby. She testified they decided to use a nail gun
to kill Buckeye at least ten minutes after the dog bit the
baby. She testified she cried and held the dog while
Appellant shot Buckeye in the skull. She conceded the dog was
not actively attacking the baby when they made the decision
to shoot the dog, and admitted they did not seek information