Dog deaths case delayed again

By Michael Johnson

August 12, 2014

GALLIPOLIS — Court proceedings involving former Gallia County assistant dog warden Jason Harris have been delayed once again.

Harris, charged with 12 counts of second-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty stemming from the investigation of several dog deaths between March 2012 and February 2014, was set for a pre-trial appearance Tuesday morning in Gallipolis Municipal Court, but was rescheduled for Oct. 21.

A jury trial is now scheduled for Oct. 28.

Since Harris, who had pleaded not guilty, was first charged in March, his pre-trial appearances in Gallipolis Municipal Court have been rescheduled six times. His original pre-trial appearance date of April 1 was later moved to April 22, followed by reschedules to June 3, June 17 (with a jury trial set for July 11), July 28, Aug. 12 and now Oct. 21.

Harris and two others were originally charged March 14 in connection with the dog deaths. At the heart of the charges was a Feb. 14, 2014, incident at the Gallia County Animal Shelter in which 11 dogs — reportedly vaccinated and prepped for adoption — were euthanized.

Harris is charged with negligently causing unnecessary pain and suffering to dogs being euthanized at the animal shelter located on Shawnee Lane. It is alleged, according to court documents, that he, along with former Gallia County dog wardens Paul L. Simmers and Jean Daniels, didn’t follow the correct procedure during the euthanasia process and caused the animals to suffer unnecessary pain.

The misdemeanor charges were first brought by Gallipolis City Solicitor Adam R. Salisbury after Gallia County Prosecutor Jeff Adkins announced that no felony charges were forthcoming.

Each charge, according to Salisbury for a story published April 2, is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $750 fine, five years’ probation and 200 hours of community service. If convicted, that means Harris faces almost three years in jail and $9,000 in fines.

In late June, Simmers and Daniels each entered no contest pleas, according to court documents obtained by the Gallipolis Daily Tribune. Both received a $25 fine and were ordered to pay court costs, as well as attend a state-approved 16-hour course with the American Humane Association.

Simmers originally faced 32 counts of second-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty, while Daniels faced 13 counts of the same charge. According to court records, the other 31 counts against Simmers and 12 against Daniels were dismissed.

The case gained a full head of steam shortly after the Valentine’s Day incident when the Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals said it planned to “fully investigate” the deaths of 11 dogs at the Gallia County Animal Shelter. The Ohio SPCA cited the concerns of the Friends of Gallia County’s Animals, a local rescue group whose members had said all of the dogs killed were vaccinated and in the process of being adopted.

The dog deaths eventually led the Gallia County Board of Commissioners to create the Gallia County Canine Management Committee, a group made up of community members and county staff that provides recommendations and guidance about all things concerning the Gallia County Animal Shelter.