Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Lake
from the Mentor Municipal Court, Case No. 2019 CV 00915.
Jeffrey Holland and Danamarie K. Pannella, Holland and
Muirden, (For Appellee).
Michela J. Huth, (For Appellants).
CYNTHIA WESTCOTT RICE, J.
Appellants, Karen Schmiege, et al., have filed an appeal of
the trial court's ruling finding probable cause to seize
two companion animals based upon suspected animal cruelty or
neglect. We dismiss the appeal as moot.
Pursuant to R.C. 929.13(B), an officer may seize and impound
a companion animal if that officer has probable cause to
believe the animal is the subject of abuse and neglect. The
officer must post statutory notice that a hearing will be
held on the impoundment within 10 days. R.C. 959.132(C). At
the hearing, the court shall determine whether the officer
had probable cause to seize and impound the companion animal.
R.C. 959.132(E)(1). If probable cause is not found, the
animal must be returned to the owners. R.C. 959.132(E)(2). If
the court determines probable cause exists and determines an
amount of bond or cash for deposit, the case shall continue
and the owner must post a bond or cash deposit for the
companion animal's care and keeping for not less than 30
days beginning on the date the animal was impounded. R.C.
959.132(E)(3). The owner may renew the deposit not later than
10 days following the expiration of the previous 30-day
period. Id. If the owner fails to do so, and the
court has determined the renewal is required, the impounding
agency may determine the disposition of the companion animal
unless the court issues an order that specifies otherwise.
In August 2019, a police officer seized two dogs from
appellants' residence. A probable cause hearing was held,
after which the trial court found probable cause existed to
seize and impound the companion animals. The court ordered
appellants to pay $600 for the care of the animals over a
30-day period. The court further ordered the owners to renew
the deposit by posting not later than 10 days following the
expiration of the period for which the previous deposit was
posted. Appellants made the initial deposit, which covered
the cost of care of the animals through October 1, 2019. The
renewal was therefore due on October 11, 2019.
Appellee, in its supplemental motion, avers that appellants
failed to make the renewal payment. Appellants concede their
payment was 10-days late. As a result, the impounding agency
determined the disposition of the animals; to wit: one of the
animals was euthanized due to diminished quality of life and
the other was adopted. Because the animals cannot be returned
to appellants, appellee asserts the instant appeal is moot.
A court has no duty to decide moot questions, i.e., those
issues that are purely academic or abstract. Miner v.
Witt, 82 Ohio St. 237 (1910), syllabus. If an appellant
cannot be granted effectual relief by a reviewing court, the
appeal will be dismissed as moot. In re Bates, 11th
Dist. Ashtabula No. 2000-A-0054, 2001 WL 1149863, (Sept.28,
Appellants claim the case is not moot because, if this court
overturned the probable cause determination, such an outcome
would have evidentiary implications in the criminal
proceeding, i.e., the evidence in support of the prosecution
would be less credible. Appellants' argument is
speculative. We have no ability to assess the evidence the
state intends on producing in support of their criminal case.
Moreover, under R.C. 959.132(E)(2), if the trial court
determines an officer lacked probable cause, the owner is
entitled to the immediate return of the companion animal to
its owner or the reasonable market value of the animal if it
dies or is otherwise injured. We conclude this is the relief
the General Assembly contemplated if a court determines an
officer lacked probable cause to seize the companion animal.
We have no ability to grant such relief. Thus, the remote or
potential benefit that might redound to appellants'
defense in the criminal case does not overcome appellee's
Here, appellants were obligated to post $600 for the care of
the companion animals by October 11, 2019. Regardless of
their reasons, they did not do so. As a result, R.C.
959.132(E)(3) authorized the impounding agency, here the Lake
County Humane Society, to determine the disposition of the
animals. It determined that one animal's condition
necessitated humane euthanasia and the other was adopted by a
third party. The impounding agency accordingly no longer has
access to or control over those animals. Although appellee
originally argued the underlying order is not a final,
appealable order, we need not reach that issue. Because we
can afford appellants no meaningful relief, we conclude the
matter must be dismissed as moot. ...