Hearings continued in dog deaths case

By Michael Johnson

April 1, 2014

GALLIPOLIS — Pre-trial hearings for three Gallia County residents charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty were continued Tuesday in Gallipolis Municipal Court.

Dog warden Paul L. Simmers faces 32 counts of second-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty, while his former assistant Jason Harris is charged with 12 counts of second-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty in connection with the Feb. 14 deaths of several dogs at the Gallia County Animal Shelter. Former dog warden Jean L. Daniels is also charged with 13 counts of second-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty.

All three are charged with negligently causing unnecessary pain and suffering to dogs being euthanized at the animal shelter located in the 100 block of Shawnee Lane. They allegedly didn’t follow correct procedures during the euthanasia process, which investigators said caused the animals to suffer unnecessary pain.

Harris’ pre-trial hearing is scheduled for 8:45 a.m. April 22, while Simmers will appear for his pre-trial hearing at 9:45 a.m. April 22. Daniels’ hearing is set for 2:45 p.m. Monday (April 7).

The case gained a full head of steam shortly after Feb. 14, 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 (FGCA), a local rescue group whose members said all of the dogs killed were vaccinated and in the process of being adopted.

The alleged animal cruelty occurred between March 16, 2012, to Feb. 14, 2014. Each charge, according to Gallipolis City Solicitor Adam R. Salisbury, is punishable by up to 90 days incarceration, a $750 fine, five years’ probation and 200 hours of community service.

If convicted, Simmers faces almost eight years in jail and $24,000 in fines. Harris faces almost three years in jail and $9,000 in fines, while Daniels faces slightly more than three years in jail and $9,750 in fines.

The dog killings have since been a weekly topic at Gallia County Commission meetings, with as little as 30 minutes or as much as 90 minutes devoted to it. Members of the FGCA are always in attendance in hopes of getting answers from commissioners, who oversee the animal shelter and its employees.

Commission President David K. Smith, during the commission’s March 21 meeting, said he wants the Gallia County Canine Management Committee to form and begin working toward better oversight and communication at the animal shelter. Smith said a formal announcement on members of that committee may be made at Thursday’s commission meeting.