Who, age What Where When Last Known Address
Dorothy Rice abandoned 2 dogs in a garage, 1 dies

York, PA

York County

December 21, 2006  
Louis Rice, 25 abandoned 2 dogs in a garage, 1 dies

York, PA

York County

December 21, 2006  
Ami Charlton, 25 abandoned 2 dogs in a garage, 1 dies

York, PA

York County

December 21, 2006  
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved
summary animal cruelty   2 pitbulls

The owners of 2 Pit Bulls in York may face charges of animal cruelty for abandoning the dogs in a garage.  Police responded to a call from someone who had seen the dogs through a window in the garage in the 100 block of Lafayette Street. One of the dogs was dead and the other was severely emaciated and dehydrated.

The dog was taken to the SPCA Shelter in Manchester Township, where he is being nursed back to health, stated SPCA Executive Director Melissa Smith. If the dog recovers and is deemed to have a good temperament, it will be available for adoption at the shelter. He was severely underweight and appeared to have been neglected for some time. He also bore some wounds on his face, possibly from fighting with the dog that died. The dog did not appear to have been involved in dogfighting, which is illegal in Pennsylvania.

  (Photo courtesy of Paul Kuehnel/The York Daily Record - Melissa Smith of the SPCA pets Noah)

The dog's owners, who were not identified, face charges of animal cruelty, which carries a fine of up to $750. The owner of the garage may face charges as well. Charges are expected to be filed within a week.

Update 12/28/06:  Police filed charges against Dorothy Rice, of the 100 block of Lafayette Street, and Louis Rice and Ami Charlton, both of the 500 block of Pennsylvania Avenue.

The SPCA's Executive Director, Melissa Smith stated, "because of the severity of the case, they are asking for the maximum penalty." If convicted, the Rice's and Charlton each face fines of $550. The citations identify all three as the owners or keepers of the animals and said they had "wantonly or cruelly" neglected the dogs.

  (Photo courtesy of John Pavoncello/The York Dispatch - Noah as he recovers at the SPCA)

At the Manchester Township shelter, the surviving dog is recovering. He has put on a significant amount of weight and is beginning to trust workers there. The SPCA Staff has changed the 16-month-old tan and white pit bull's name from "Scrappy" to "Noah."  He has fresh scars on his muzzle, but Smith said she does not think that Noah had been involved in organized dog fighting, which is illegal in Pennsylvania.

  (Photo courtesy of John Pavoncello/The York Dispatch - Noah taking Canine Good Citizenship classes with trainer Deb Sangrey of the York County Dog Training Club)

After the dog fully recovers, he will be evaluated for temperament. If he is determined to be non-aggressive, he will be placed up for adoption. Noah is already responding affectionately to staff at the shelter, although he is still shy around strangers.

Update 1/19/07:  Before they were locked in a York City garage, Scrappie weighed 50 pounds and Trunks weighed 73 pounds, court testimony revealed.  But by the time the pit bulls were found by authorities a month later, Scrappie was just 26 pounds, emaciated and traumatized, according to testimony.

Trunks died of starvation in the unheated garage -- what remained of him was a mere 30 1/2 pounds, including the bits of plastic and wood chips he'd eaten, a veterinarian said. Just before he died, Trunks had deliberately been biting his own lip.  "The dog essentially was mutilating himself ... at the time of death," Dr. Mark Walter testified. Walter is employed by the state Department of Agriculture and performed the necropsy on the dead dog.

Veterinarians, a York City police officer and a humane society police officer all took the stand to testify against Dorothy Rice, who owns the 164 Lafayette St. property where the dogs were kept.

The dogs were not hers -- both were owned by Rice's son, Louis Rice, and his girlfriend, Ami Charlton -- but she'd allowed her son to keep the dogs in her garage because he could not have them in his new rental home, Dorothy Rice said.

He and Charlton were responsible for feeding them and making sure they had water, she said, and she did not even have a key to get in the garage.

'You had a responsibility': At the close of the hearing, District Judge Ronald Haskell Jr. ruled that although Dorothy Rice did not bear as much culpability as her son or Charlton, she was nonetheless guilty of summary animal cruelty .

"Why didn't you do more?" he asked her. "You had a responsibility to these animals to make sure they did not waste away in the awful way (they did)."  Any reasonable person would have checked on the dogs, he said.  "There were signs of life that could've been (observed)," Haskell said.  He fined Dorothy Rice $250. With court costs, her total was $292.93.

No appeal planned: She said she will not appeal and is satisfied with Haskell's ruling.  "I do bear some (responsibility)," she said. "I wish I could go back and redo it."  However, she said she was afraid of the dogs and was never responsible for caring for them. She said she also believed her son had picked up the dogs and taken them elsewhere about two weeks before police found them on Dec. 20 in the detached garage behind her home.

On Jan. 9, Louis Rice and Charlton, both 25 and of 523 Pennsylvania Ave. in York City, pleaded guilty to summary animal cruelty , according to Haskell's office.  Haskell fined them each $500 plus $49.50 in costs.

Dorothy Rice said she is not angry at her son, who has agreed to help her pay her fine.

Still at SPCA: Scrappie -- who was renamed Noah -- is now back up to 48 pounds but remains at the York County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals, according to executive director Melissa Smith.  He's not available for adoption because the staff is still evaluating his temperament, she said.

Smith said she's not satisfied with the penalties the three defendants received.  "Certainly with Ami and Louis, we would've like to see the maximum," Smith said, which is a $750 fine and up to 90 days in county prison.

'What's worse?': Humane Society Police Officer Christine Grim, who investigated, said she thought jail time was warranted.  What could you do (to an animal) that's worse" than letting it to slowly starve to death, Grim said.

While testifying, Grim said that although the dogs had been in the garage for about a month, she found no feces inside -- just a large amount of trash -- indicating they hadn't been eating.

Also testifying was SPCA staff veterinarian Kelly Bergman, who examined Noah and determined he had "severe" muscle wasting due to starvation. His bones jutted out of his skin and his eyes were sunken, she said.

According to court records (Case #'s NT94006, NT94106, and NT93906) Dorothy Rice was found guilty of failing to provide adequate care for the dogs and was fined $342.93. Louis Rice was convicted on January 8, 2007, and was fined $549.00. Ami Charlton was also convicted and fined $549.00.  None of them received jail time or probation, and none are prohibited from owning animals.


The York Daily Record

The York Dispatch