MAYFIELD — A Mayfield woman has been ordered to pay a $235,583 security bond to cover the expense of caring for three dozen animals seized by police from her animal shelter in July.
Mayfield Town Justice John Papa ruled on Thursday that Susan Kelly must pay the costs to shelter animals at three local animal shelters after Kelly was arrested on Aug. 10 and charged with 55 misdemeanor counts of torturing or injuring animals and failing to provide sustenance.
If Kelly is unable to post the bond amount in five days, the three dozen animals in question will be forfeited to various humane societies.
While the criminal charges against Kelly are still pending, a petition from the Fulton County Regional Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and the James A. Brennan Humane Society in civil court sought to hold Kelly responsible for the cost of covering the cost of sheltering animals from the defendant’s Kelly’s Haven Animal Shelter.
The petitioners also requested that 35 dogs that Papa previously ruled had been forfeited by the defendant would now be available for adoption, a request that Papa granted on Thursday.
“I’m very relieved,” Fulton County Regional SPCA President Renee Earl said after the hearing. “There’s a portion of the dogs that are now available for adoption and the remaining, if the bond is not paid, will then be freed for adoption. Our main objective is just to do what’s best for the dogs, which would be getting them out of a shelter environment and into homes.”
Police searched the property at 587 State Highway 349 on July 25 and seized over 60 animals on the site in alleged uninhabitable conditions.
Three local shelters are harboring the animals, with the Ayres Memorial Animal Shelter in Sprakers incurring costs of $66,054 so far to shelter a portion of the animals, with estimated future costs of $36,000 for any subsequent 30-day period.
Fulton County Regional SPCA testified that the organization has incurred $53,613 for sheltering costs, with an estimate of $15,000 for future care for each additional 30 days. The Brennan Humane Society has piled up actual expenses of $60,425 for boarding expenses, with estimated future costs of $4,500 for each future 30-day period. The combined costs of the three shelters added up to $235,583 with the bond set to cover past and future costs incurred by the three animal shelters.
During the Thursday morning court hearing, the plaintiffs called witness Marissa Christman of the Ayres shelter to testify regarding the conditions of the animals seized from Kelly’s property. The Ayres shelter is currently housing 24 of Kelly’s animals at its site, with 17 ducks, three chickens, three dogs and a horse under its care.
Christman testified that when she went to Kelly’s property in July to take in the animals that the dogs reeked of feces and urine, with the animals requiring multiple washes before they could get clean.
Defense witness Carol Seeley testified later in the hearing that she and Kelly provided ample care for Pretty Lady, the horse that lived on Kelly’s property.
During his summation at the conclusion of the hearing, defense attorney Allen Day contended that the petitioners had not provided ample evidence that the horse, goats, ducks and chickens seized from Kelly’s property had been neglected.
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“The question here is whether by preponderance of the evidence the people have shown that there was a failure to provide the necessary food, shelter and sustenance for the animals,” Day noted in his summation.
During his summation, petitioners’ attorney Jonathan Schopf delineated the conditions found at the Kelly property during the police seizure in July.
“Counsel has submitted at length that there was proper food and water, that is simply not the case,” he said. “With regards to the goats themselves, it’s clear from the photographic evidence and the testimony of the officers and the shelter workers that the day in question [July 25], the water was contaminated and filthy. There was no food for those animals. Similar for the horse, the rabbits and the other farm animals. There was testimony that the property was infested with rats, including in the area where the ducks were kept.”
Schopf noted that the pervasive presence of animal feces on the property had led to a hookworm outbreak amongst the animals.
In his ruling on Thursday, Papa sided with the petitioners on all accounts.
“After considering all that was presented to this court, I’ve determined that the plaintiffs have easily met their burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence,” Papa noted in his decision.
Day declined to comment following the hearing, citing the pending criminal charges against his client.
“I’m very pleased,” Schopf said following the hearing. “It’s the highest bond amount I’ve ever gotten in an animal cruelty case and I represent a good amount of humane societies and rescue agencies in this type of work.”