The Must Love Corsos rescue gathered outside of the Lorain Municipal Court building holding signs representing the 21 dogs that were rescued from a recent raid in Lorain.
KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE Enlarge
LORAIN — The president of a rescue group that is fostering many of the 21 cane corsos seized in a July raid is feeling the pressure of paying for the dogs’ care.
Melanie Vandewalle, the founder and president of Must Love Corsos Rescue, attended a pretrial hearing for the owners of the dogs — Lauren Souris, 36, of Olmsted Falls, and Cornelius Charlton, 44, of Lorain — in Lorain Municipal Court on Tuesday. After the hearing, Vandewalle said she was upset with the fact that her group is expected to pay for the care of the dogs, rather than the judge immediately ordering Souris and Charlton to do so.
“The issue I have with this is with the judge saying that my rescue and myself incur the cost now when we don’t own the dogs,” Vandewalle said. “We can’t provide medical care for the dogs. We can’t spay and neuter the dogs. We have five dogs that need eye surgery. One dog needs total hip replacement.”
Judge Mark Mihok did schedule a hearing on bond for Souris and Charlton for Sept. 21 to decide what, if anything, the two should pay for the care of the animals.
“There’s a state law that says when animals are seized in humane cases, the initial bond set for 30 days is how much it costs to care for all the animals,” Lorain police Officer Rick Broz said. “In this case it was Friendship APL caring and feeding the animals. If the person refuses to put up a bond then, the animals can be immediately seized by the state and turned over to the shelter.”
The dogs were seized July 17 after Lorain police received an anonymous tip concerning the welfare of the animals in an apartment at 1703 E. 28th St. After the situation was checked out by police, a search warrant was secured and 21 cane corsos were seized and taken to Friendship APL in Elyria.
During a hearing last month, Mihok ruled that the dogs could be sent to foster homes, as long as the homes were in the state of Ohio. Broz said 16 of the 21 dogs are now in foster homes.
Vandewalle said the dogs are settling in to their new surroundings.
“The corsos are doing amazing in their new homes,” she said. “I would say, at this point, 50 percent of the fosters would adopt the dog they have right now. They love them. The dogs are learning new things. Many of the dogs came in afraid of stairs, being afraid to walk on carpet and not knowing they were supposed to poop outside.”
Vandewalle said cane corsos are “very affectionate dogs” and are “getting and giving a lot of love right now.”
Still, Vandewalle is concerned.
“We’re dog lovers. I don’t want to help the defendants. I want to help the dogs.”
Vandewalle said that if the court rules the 21 dogs don’t have to be returned to Souris and Charlton, then the money spent on caring for the dogs won’t be an issue.
The charges Souris and Charlton face, which is 21 counts of cruelty to companion animals, were amended on Tuesday. The duo pleaded not guilty once again to the amended charges.
Broz said the changes to the charges were based on the different between knowingly and negligently causing animal cruelty.
“It was dropped one level to negligently,” he said. “Knowingly would be beating your dog. You know you’re hurting your dog. Another would be locking up your dog in a cage and abandoning it — leaving it to die; you know it’s going to die. Negligently is you really didn’t mean to do it, but you did it anyway.”
The court also scheduled a jury trial on the matter, which is set to begin Oct. 8.