Humane Society of Seneca County: Legal system mishandles situation involving dogs

President Louise Zoeller and Vice President Nick Spurck of Humane Society of Seneca County have released a statement. It is below, in its entirety.

As the Humane Society of Seneca County (“the HSSC”), it is our responsibility to protect animals and to provide them with the treatment they deserve as companions. We are writing this letter to express our frustration and to spread awareness amongst the community of a situation that was mishandled and improperly addressed by our legal system.

On August 8, 2019, the HSSC obtained a warrant to search the premises of Deb and Orville Alabaugh at 175 N. Sandusky St. in Tiffin, Ohio after being notified of a stench of feces from a neighboring home. The Alabaugh’s are reportedly under investigation in Wyandot County, Ohio, for the neglect and abuse of 149 animals. Of the 149, one was found dead on the premises during the seizure of the animals. These animals were believed to be the Alabaugh’s breeding stock. They were not only kept in deplorable, feces laden conditions, but were also found with mange and sores throughout their bodies. The animals had access to very little food or water.

During the HSSC’s search of the Alabaughs’ Tiffin, Ohio residence 17 puppies were discovered, many without food or water. They were found in overcrowded cages piled with feces. It is believed that the puppies, only 2-3 months old, were moved from the Alabaugh’s Wyandot facility to their home. A few of the puppies were found malnourished, dehydrated, and suffering from a skin condition. Fortunately, the HSSC rescued the puppies before their health deteriorated further.

Attached is the file that was compiled from the search of the Alabaugh’s Tiffin residence and submitted to Det. Boyer at the Tiffin Police Department as evidence of the charges against the Alabaugh’s.

Typically, documents are filed with the court to show cause for the charges. Once accomplished, bond is set for the care of the animals. In most cases, once a bond is required, the perpetrators surrender the animals, but due to a misunderstanding, the HSSC missed the ten day deadline to file the necessary documents with the court.

Tiffin City Prosecutor, Richard Palau, was assigned to the Alabaugh case. Palau failed to provide the HSSC with updates on the matter and mainly relied on information provided to him by the Alabaugh’s defense counsel, Kelle Saul. The evidentiary file that was provided to the Tiffin Police Department by the HSSC after the search of the Alabaugh’s property did not make it to the prosecutor’s office.

Upon receiving this information, the HSSC provided Palau with the evidentiary file, only to find out that the case was already nearing pre-trial proceedings, with no repercussion for the Alabaugh’s in sight. Palau indicated that the puppies were not in “that bad of shape,” but failed to note that this was due to their rescue by the HSSC before further dehydration and worsened conditions. Instead of making the case about the deplorable, filthy, inhumane conditions the puppies were found in, he allowed the case result to be determined by the condition of the puppies after they were in the care of the HSSC.

During the discovery phases of this case, Judge Repp ordered two of the puppies to be released back into the custody of the Alabaugh’s as “emotional support” animals. Immediately upon the release of these puppies, the Alabaugh’s sold one of them for $1,000. This behavior further proves the Alabaugh’s dishonesty about the intention and care of the animals.

The HSSC has tried to make several common sense requests that were denied: Could we delay the Seneca County trial until the Wyandot case is fully concluded? This request was denied. Could we please hold the Alabaughs financially accountable from when they were notified of our holding costs? This was denied. An additional request was made to at least have the Alabaughs pay for spaying or neutering so we don’t release breeding animals to the Alabaughs and this was also subsequently denied.

The court now appears set to order the return of the remaining animals to the Alabaughs. They will be given three weeks to sell these animals or return them to the HSSC for adoption through a pre-trial diversion.

In closing, the HSSC feels we have exhausted every option we can to get justice for the animals in this case. We have reached a point where all we can hope for is to spread awareness of the public information surrounding this case in the hopes that it doesn’t happen again.

The HSSC hopes that you Adopt and Don’t Shop for your pets. If you must pay for an animal, then please verify the conditions in which it was bred and make sure it was done responsibly, ethically, and legally!

(Photo courtesy of Humane Society of Seneca County)