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Wilma Jones gets 4 dogs back
But criminal charges likely
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It was a case of good news and bad news in court Friday morning for Wilma Jones.
The good news is the court ordered her four house dogs to be returned to her immediately. The bad news is prosecutors said they plan to file criminal charges against the former kennel owner.
“The agency had no authority to take the animals,” said Circuit Court Judge Bart Stanley, noting the law specifically says such animals may only be taken upon the arrest of their caregiver, an arrest which has yet to happen. “I’m ordering these animals, the four dogs and five birds, to be returned immediately.”
The announcement the animals must be returned to Jones was met with a muffled cheer from spectators sitting on the 72-year-old’s side of the court gallery. Jones said nothing during the hearing as she sat the defense table with a pair of supporters at her side.
Jones waived ownership of 117 other dogs seized from her Centertown-area kennel last month after the Animal Rescue Corps conducted an undercover investigation and seized the animals, saying they were not being cared for properly. Investigators said they found dead and malnourished animals during the search.
Jones subsequently waived ownership of all but four of the dogs after prosecutors sought to get nearly $100,000 in payment to cover the transportation, care and maintenance of the dogs. Jones wanted the four dogs and five birds in question back because they were her house pets and not kept outside with the other dogs.
While Judge Stanley ordered the dogs returned, assistant district attorney Josh Crain asked the court for a little more time, saying charges are pending.
“We fully anticipate criminal charges will be brought, we just can’t say what the charges will be or how many there will be,” said Crain, noting he would like to see the four dogs held until the criminal process is complete. Crain also said he feels Jones has more income than what she claimed before she was declared indigent during the last hearing. “We believe her income and assets are more than was put on in the proof last time.”
Judge Stanley disagreed, saying the law is clear and that animal rights officials and law enforcement had no legal right to take the animals in the first place.
“I think she did the right thing surrendering them since they were a lot more than she could handle,” Judge Stanley noted of her voluntarily waiving ownership of the 117 dogs which are now available for adoption through various organizations.
The animals awarded back to Jones are to be delivered to her without delay, with Judge Stanley pointing out that should criminal charges be filed against Jones later, then action regarding the confiscation of the four dogs and five birds could be taken if those specific animals are involved in the criminal allegations.