GALLIPOLIS — A Greenfield Township woman pleaded guilty in Gallipolis Municipal Court Thursday to 98 assorted animal abuse charges in relation to a mid-August incident in which 69 dogs and three horses were rescued from potentially dangerous and unsanitary conditions on Wagoner Road.
Jackie Morgan, 58, of Wagoner Road, was sentenced to five years of probation, 500 hours of community service and continuing mental health treatment in accordance with previous animal cruelty convictions earlier that year in a separate case. Morgan was also forbidden to have any animals in her possession or care. Of the 98 charges, 95 involved companion animals as first degree misdemeanors and three were considered non-companion animals, the horses.
City Solicitor Adam Salisbury, who represented the state, recommended no jail time be served in a plea arrangement as he felt it would not serve the public. The state felt Morgan had no malicious intent when housing animals in unsafe conditions but was responsible for gross negligence in the care of the animals. Salisbury did recommend community service time should be spent at the Gallia Dog Shelter.
Gallipolis Municipal Judge Margaret Evans said the recommendation would be taken under advisement and considered before sentencing Morgan but she was not certain as to whether it was appropriate due to the nature of what had transpired with Morgan over the past year.
The Gallia County Dog Warden, along with the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office and the Humane Society of the United States, pulled roughly 69 dogs and three horses from Morgan’s Wagoner Road residence Aug. 11 from crowded conditions with heavy sewage smells, unclean containment areas and limited access to food and water. Rescue workers spent the day documenting animals and taking several into emergency treatment.
The animals were then shipped to an undisclosed location in Gallia County for closer inspection and care as legal proceedings continue.
The animals were eventually moved to emergency placement partners of the Humane Society of the United States in Maine, Ohio and West Virginia, where they received care and recuperated before being put up for adoption. The Citizens for Human Action Animal Shelter, Cleveland Animal Protective League, the Humane Society of Greater Akron, all in Ohio, as well as the Preston County Animal Shelter in West Virginia and the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Maine, obtained animals from the Wagoner Road rescue. One animal was adopted in Gallia County as part of an arrangement with the Gallia Canine Shelter.
The three horses were forfeited to the care of New Beginnings Animal Center in Athens County. Two adult horses had been the subject of previous charges associated with Morgan as she was found to be in violation of not providing proper shelter for the horses on her property. One of the horses would later give birth in the year. All three of the horses were also considered part of the rescue case.
Salisbury displayed photos and evidence gathered by the Humane Society of the United States in assistance with the Gallia Sheriff’s Office. Salisbury said a variety of parasites and infections had been discovered in the animals documented to have been found in poorly maintained structures on the Wagoner Road property. Salisbury said there were approximately 1,100 photos.
HSUS Field Responder Jennifer Hayes addressed the court next. She thanked the court for listening to the case.
“As you can see from the pictures, the animals were obviously in a terrible state,” said Hayes.” However, your Honor, one of the things you can’t see is the smell. The state of the property is obviously not safe for the defendant or the animals. The majority, if not all of the animals, were found to have lived in those conditions were underweight due to lack of food and water with gross amounts of infestations and parasites, some of which had lead to secondary skin infections.”
Neighbors of the Wagoner Property shared their experiences with battling what they claimed to be a massive rat problem attempting to infest their property due to the state of the Wagoner Road property as well as other issues for years.
Bill Conley, Morgan’s defense counselor, claimed many of the animals Morgan kept were sick strays and that unknown individuals had dropped them off at the property and that few of them originally belonged to her. The defense claimed Morgan had attempted numerous times to reach out to rescues and the Gallia Canine Shelter but was met with resistance or statements saying they could not handle the animals at the time. Conley stressed that Morgan was an animal lover and her checkbook would reveal the amount of money she had spent in the animals’ care.
Photos reveal dozens of animals had been found inside of structures at Morgan’s residence.
Morgan shared Conley’s sentiment in a brief statement to the court. She said she refused to shoot animals on her property as she did not have the heart to see them die. Evans asked if there had been evidence to back whether calls had been made to agencies or rescues by Morgan for assistance. No specific phone listings or call records were produced during court proceedings as evidence.
“If I’d have been a neighbor out there, I’d have called the police myself,” said Conley. “I wouldn’t put up with animals running the woods of my house and all the stuff that I just heard. She has tried to get help and was turned down and she wasn’t willing to shoot the dogs or do anything like that so she kept them. Now, that I don’t understand because I would have kept them for three days. If nobody would have helped me I would have shot each one of them.”
“Although the damage to the animals and the neighbors cannot be undone, we are satisfied with the outcome of the case,” said Gallia Dog Warden Laurie Cardillo. “Everyone involved agrees that jail time would not in any way be of help to Ms. Morgan. However, Judge Evans imposed the maximum probation and community service, and we are pleased with the fact that she (Morgan) is ordered to not have animals of any kind. I would like to thank the HSUS, Judge Evans, Prosecutor Jeff Adkins, City Solicitor Adam Salisbury, local law enforcement and all the neighbors who came together as a team and assisted to resolve this issue.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.