If the dog is not brought to the courtroom on a chain this afternoon then an animal rights activist may be leaving in chains for contempt of court.
The activist, Clay Lerch, is under court order to bring Brutus, the 10-year-old Boxer belonging to Joe D. Curtis to court on a leash this afternoon or face a hearing before Judge Bill Locke which could result in being found in contempt of court. The order comes after Judge Locke directed that the dog be surrendered to the court. Its rightful owner sued to get the dog back after Lerch, a leading advocate for the Warren County Humane Society, allegedly took the animal without his permission claiming the dog had not been properly taken care of. The owner maintains he took good care of the animal on his farm.
Lerch sidestepped criminal charges in the case this March when Judge Locke found the custody of the dog was a civil matter. Lerch had been charged with theft prior to a hearing before the judge. At the end of the hearing, Locke suggested Curtis bring suit against Lerch to get his dog back. Curtis did as the court suggested and is now waiting for his dog to be returned.
However, Lerch reportedly claims a veterinarian in another county who has the dog will not turn loose of it because of unpaid vet bills. Regardless, the court has told Lerch to either have the dog in court today or else. The “else” could range from a fine and admonition to return the dog to the owner to Lerch being thrown into jail until the dog is returned.
This isn’t Lerch’s first staring contest with the court for not returning an animal to its rightful owner. Back in 2011, then-Judge Larry Ross threatened Lerch and an animal rights group known as Dames for Danes with contempt of court if they did not return two dogs Lerch reportedly took from someone’s property claiming they were being mistreated.
Charges were dropped against the couple Lerch accused of abusing the animal and Judge Ross ordered Lerch to return the dogs. When Lerch did not comply two weeks later, he was hauled into court and claimed he had been told by Dames for Danes the dogs had run away. Under threat of contempt of court, one of the dogs was returned. The other was not returned and Ross issued a bench subpoena for Dames for Danes. The second dog was eventually returned.