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Cops and Courts

Judge says half of seized dogs can go to foster homes

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    Cornelius Charlton, left, and Lauren Souris sit with their attorney Jack Bradley during a hearing Friday in Lorain Municipal Court about their 21 dogs being held at Friendship Animal Protective League.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

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LORAIN — About half of the 21 dogs seized in a raid last month could be put in foster homes to help free up space at the Friendship Animal Protective League while the case works its way through the court system.

During a pretrial hearing Friday in Lorain Municipal Court, Cornelius Charlton, 44, of Lorain, and Lauren Souris, 36, of Olmsted Falls, agreed to allow the dogs to be fostered. Both pleaded not guilty to 21 charges each of cruelty to companion animals last month after the Lorain County dog warden and Lorain Police Department took the dogs July 17.

“The primary issue is that this number of animals takes up half the available space for dogs at the animal shelter, which severely curtails their operation,” Lorain police Officer Rick Broz said. “There’s other issues because of this type of case and that these dogs are breeding dogs, not just family pets, so there’s issues with who is allowed to walk them outside. That is limited to the staff of the shelter, which is overworked, myself and members of the cane corso rescue group that is coming in to evaluate the animals.”

Judge Mark Mihok said there were a few options on moving forward with the case. One was to have a hearing, as soon as Monday, to determine what should happen with the dogs. Another option was presented by the prosecutor, which was to foster some of the animals to “alleviate some of the pressure on Friendship APL” and to give “the parties the opportunity to look into any evidentiary issues, to come prepared and speak more intelligently about all the issues.”

“We have no objection to those dogs being placed in foster homes, as long as it’s within the state of Ohio,” defense attorney Jack Bradley said. “The vet did indicate that most of the dogs were in good body condition. The ideal body condition would be, from a scale of 1 to 9, 4 or 5. The vet found the score was 4 or 5 for most of the dogs, so we would just hope that they are maintained in that body condition while they’re in foster care.”

Friendship APL Executive Director Greg Willey said the body condition of the dogs wasn’t an issue or why the dogs were seized.

“What they were talking about in there is the body score, or the body condition,” Willey said. “The body condition wasn’t actually a problem with these particular animals. That wasn’t what the question was. It was actually not that they were starving the animals to death. It was mostly internal and external parasites, as well as some conditioning around the eyes.”

Mihok said he felt the decision to foster some of the animals was a good one.

“I think it’s a great stopgap measure to ensure the well-being of the animals. I think it’s the best possible steps we can take at this point.”

Willey, though, wasn’t thrilled by the decision.

“I know it’s a stopgap, but I would rather have had a bond hearing and see if we could have gotten these things taken care of,” Willey said. “There are animals in there that need surgery, particularly on their eyes. Those are things that we’re kind of holding off on because it’s hard to say it’s an emergency and it needs to be done immediately, but there are animals that are getting into that situation.

“I would rather, at least on the dogs’ behalf, had it wrapped up, whether they went back or stayed with us. At least we could, at that point, move on with what those animals need. This is kind of like a limbo, at this point. That’s the worst part, having these dogs living in limbo.”

Willey also said that he has concerns for the foster families that will be taking in the dogs.

“It’s hard enough when you’re taking these animals into a shelter and you’re getting attached to them as you work with them day in and day out,” he said. “It’s another thing when you take them into your home. Should something happen where these animals are returned back to the owners at the end of this, it’s a very, very difficult situation.”

Willey said fostering half the dogs doesn’t give the shelter all that much relief.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “The way we work, we’re going to get 21 more dogs. It’s not like it’s going to be an end to the number of dogs. We’re built to handle it. If 14 dogs go, we’re going to get 14 dogs in. We stay full. That’s our job. That’s our mission.”

Charlton and Souris are next scheduled to appear in court Sept. 7.

Contact Scott Mahoney at 440-329-7146 or smahoney@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.


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