Embattled local kennel owner Wilma Jones entered not-guilty pleas to charges of animal cruelty and drug possession Wednesday during arraignment before Circuit Court Judge Bart Stanley.
Jones, 72, entered her not-guilty pleas to 10 counts of animal cruelty and five counts of simple possession of controlled substances. She was found to be indigent, prompting Judge Stanley to assign the public defender’s office to handle her case. She will have to pay a $50 fee to the public defender’s office.
Her arraignment marked her first appearance in court since she was the target of a sealed indictment issued by the Warren County grand jury last week. Jones is free on her own recognizance on the 15 misdemeanor counts, all of which are Class A misdemeanors which carry up to 11-month, 29-day sentences.
Jones is accused of not properly caring for dogs in her possession. Animal rights officers descended on her home earlier this year and seized 124 dogs and a handful of other animals. They said many of the animals were malnourished and were being held in horrible conditions.
They also said there were dead animals found during the raid. The animal rights officials said Jones was running a puppy mill at the site, noting undercover agents had negotiated the purchase of dogs there. Jones has denied running a puppy mill, instead saying she had taken in dogs which other people abandoned.
After the raid, but before her indictment last week, Jones filed for, and was granted, the return of four house dogs and some birds, with the court finding authorities had no right to seize any of the animals without taking charges against her. Jones signed away rights to the remainder of the dogs and the animals have since been put up for adoption.
The delay between the raid and the indictments, it was revealed in court recently, was due to the complexity of the raid and the sheer number of animals seized. The counts for which Jones is charged represent a small percentage of the animals taken during the raid. The drug counts involve small amounts of drugs found during the raid for which Jones did not have a prescription.