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Cops and Courts

Owners of seized dogs have charges increased

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



LORAIN — For the second time in less than two weeks, the owners of the 21 cane corsos seized in a July raid have had the charges against them changed. This time, the charges were increased to felonies, and the cases were bound over to the higher court.

Lauren Souris, 36, of Olmsted Falls, and Cornelius Charlton, 44, of Lorain, are now charged with felony counts of cruelty to companion animals, according to court documents.

Defense attorney Jack Bradley, who represents Souris and Charlton on the matter, said his clients are frustrated with the change.

“The first time they charged them with misdemeanors of the first degree,” Bradley said. “Then they refiled them as misdemeanors of the second degree. On Friday, I found out they refiled them as felonies.”

The charges against them initially were amended Sept. 11.

At that time, Lorain police Officer Rick Broz said the charges were based on the difference between knowingly and negligently causing animal cruelty.

“It was dropped one level to negligently,” Broz said after the Sept. 11 hearing. “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.”

Broz declined to comment on why the charges against Souris and Charlton were now elevated to felonies.

Bradley said he believes the charges were amended because prosecutors believe his clients were “running a kennel.” He said there are “no allegations that there’s any torture or anything like that.”

“It’s not that there was serious harm caused to any of these animals,” Bradley said. “They were all within healthy range. It’s just that they’re alleging they were properly cared for. They feel that because they were running a kennel that would raise the degree of the offense to a felony.”

Lorain police received an anonymous tip July 17 concerning the welfare of the animals in an apartment at 1703 E. 28th St. After the situation was checked by police, a search warrant was secured and 21 cane corsos were seized and taken to Friendship APL in Elyria.

The dogs were left alone in the unventilated, un-air-conditioned apartment and were without water when they were found by law enforcement, police have said.

Greg Willey, the executive director of Friendship APL, has said some of the dogs need medical attention, such as surgery on their eyes, which can’t be provided while the case is still unresolved. On Monday, Willey said 18 of the dogs seized in the raid are being cared for in foster homes, with the remaining three being cared for at Friendship APL.

The cases of Souris and Charlton were set to go to trial in Lorain Municipal Court on Oct. 8, but since the municipal court cannot handle felony cases, the matter has been bound over to county Common Pleas Court for a grand jury to consider.

“We were getting prepared for trial, and we were a little disappointed that the case had been refiled and had to be removed from Lorain Municipal Court,” Bradley said. “They would like to get this thing behind them. Everyone would, I think.”

Contact Scott Mahoney at 329-7146 or Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.

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