ROMNEY — A woman’s love for her own dogs couldn’t overcome the mountain of evidence against her dismantled rescue operation in court last week.
Love Shack Rescue owner Sabrina Droescher lost her bid to regain possession of 5 dogs and keep a 6th that authorities were afraid to take away from her.
“I just want my family back,” Droescher told Judge Charles Carl Thursday morning during her appeal hearing.
But Carl said she cannot keep 6 dogs she claimed as her own after the county shut down her rescue operation and pulled 103 dogs out of there in early April.
Working against her in the circuit court hearing was the evidence that the 6 dogs she claimed as her personal property were suffering the same intestinal parasites that the others were.
Assistant Prosecutor Charlie Johnson likened it to a child custody situation, saying that if 1 child in a family is found to be neglected, then the law assumes all are.
“There is no excuse for what happened here,” Carl told Droescher as he ordered her to pay the county $4,533 for the expense that animal control has incurred in keeping the dogs.
Magistrate Ron DiCiolla had reached the same verdict on April 16, but Droescher appealed to the circuit court. Thursday’s hearing was a trial de novo, meaning Carl heard testimony and viewed evidence as though the earlier proceeding hadn’t happened.
Droescher has 30 days to appeal Carl’s ruling to the State Supreme Court.
“I’m not sure how I want to proceed,” she said after Thursday’s hearing.
If she does not appeal, the dogs will be put down in accordance with county ordinance.
“They have already killed 4 of my dogs that never harmed a soul,” Droescher lamented. “They will undoubtedly kill Sasha, who has also never harmed anyone despite the fact that she has been with me for 5-and-a-half years and goes everywhere with me.”
Sasha was left in Droescher’s custody when the other dogs were removed because animal control officials said the dog was too great a threat to their safety.
The other 5 dogs she sued for — Darby, Cassandra, Betty, Emily and Slone — have been in the county animal shelter for 5 months.
Droescher represented herself, which proved a disadvantage as Carl at times corrected and at times admonished her on legal procedure.
She pressed animal control officer Terrie Eversole about conditions at 2 properties Love Shack Rescue used, and Droescher owned, off Timber Mountain Road.
“There were too many dogs too close together,” Eversole testified.
Hampshire County Sheriff’s Deputy Phoebe Lahman, who headed the investigation, said that enclosed places reeked of urine and ammonia.
Neither Lahman nor Eversole noted any distinction between the rescue dogs and those that Droescher claimed as her own.
Droescher’s only witness, Linda Stronza of Berkeley County, testified that she had no doubts about the defendant’s care of her animals.
But she was forced to admit under cross-examination that she had never set foot on the Love Shack Rescue property and grew quiet as Johnson showed her pictures of the conditions there.
Droescher faces 103 misdemeanor criminal charges of animal neglect. The mountain of evidence has delayed proceedings in magistrate court. A pretrial hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Because Droescher still faces the criminal charges, Carl cautioned her against making any statement at last week’s civil hearing, but Droescher wanted to speak.
“The dogs were taken care of,” she contended. “The inanimate objects were not,” she said explaining conditions there.