|Janet Wherry||a dozen farm animals removed from owners property due to neglect||Half Moon Bay, CA San Mateo County||July 27, 2006|
|Goat found neglected||Half Moon Bay, CA||July 7, 2006|
|Sheep infested with maggots||Half Moon Bay, CA||August 13, 2005|
|Farm animals found living in squalor||Half Moon Bay, CA||February 24, 1994|
(Photo courtesy of PHS - this animal was found with hooves that resembled elf shoes) The Peninsula Humane Society reports that the animals, including 2 horses, 1 pony, 3 goats, 4 sheep and a pig, were found badly malnourished and suffering from a number of health problems. It was just last year that other boarders at the Triple Springs Ranch complained to the Humane Society about the owner. Humane Society Officers made several follow-up visits before removing the animals.
The horses were forced to stay in their stalls during the winter months in piles of their own waste. Wherry owns 2 of the horses and rented out space to other horse owners who noticed the neglected animals and called the PHS/SPCA.
Wherry has already been charged with one count of animal cruelty and two more counts are now pending. The animals have been placed in foster care outside the county. Wherry could receive up to 1 year in jail on the single misdemeanor charge. A felony charge, or more counts, could bring prison time and stiffer fines.
Wherry has a long history of mistreating animals in her care and does not have a current stable permit to run a commercial boarding facility. Her lawyer, Joseph Johnson said that all of the charges against his client were false and that he was confident Wherry would prevail in court.
In February 1994, the Peninsula Humane Society charged Wherry with 3 counts of animal cruelty after they found a number of violations, including not maintaining a proper fence to keep animals off State Route 92, not providing adequate food, water, shelter and for keeping animals in unhealthy conditions. During the investigation, Wherry was asked to provide proof she buys enough food for her animals. She could only provide receipts for 1.5 months worth of food to supply 3 horses in a 6 month period. 6 horses, 2 goats, 1 rabbit and several chickens were found with only 1 1/2 bales of hay on the entire property. The case ended in a civil settlement on January 30, 1995 with Wherry being ordered to comply with the recommendations of the San Mateo County Building Environmental Health, Code Enforcement and the PHS/SPCA.
On August 13, 2005, the District Attorney filed a 597(b) charge of animal cruelty when a sheep in her care and had to be euthanized after it was found infested with maggots. She was also ordered to provide proper care and feeding to animals after a number of underfed animals were found living in squalor.
On July 7, 2006, a sick goat named "Vidia" that Wherry had claimed to have euthanized a year earlier was found alive, but starving, suffering from lice, an untreated eye injury and grossly overgrown hooves. The goat is now under the PHS and has gained back 10 pounds. A video regarding the goat was sent to prosecutors.
Update October 27, 2006:
(Photo of Debi DeNardi courtesy of the Examiner) A complaint involving the cruelty investigator for PHS Debi DeNardi (San Mateo County Superior Court Case #460556) was filed by Wherry alleging that her livestock was stolen by DeNardi. Sheriff's Captain Don O'Keefe, stated the charges appear to be unfounded because the animals are in protective custody. The District Attorney's office is investigating Wherry's case itself instead of only relying on DeNardi's reports. Wherry remains free on her own recognizance.
Update December 18, 2006:
The jury trial was postponed while Wherry seeks a new lawyer. Wherry's next court appearance is January 24, 2007. Wherry said she fired her attorney and unsuccessfully asked for a court-appointed lawyer.
Update January 16, 2007:
Wherry, has filed a complaint with San Mateo County against the PHS (San Mateo County Superior Court Case #461009) in anticipation of coming litigation. Her complaint alleges that the PHS unfairly targeted her and her boarding facility. In a press release Wherry alleges that the investigation by the PHS was unlawful. According to the complaint, the investigation placed Wherry "in a false light, defamed her character, caused damage to her personal reputation...and caused her significant emotional distress". Jim Knapp, president of Citizens for Accountability announced that San Francisco attorney Mark Webb has filed a claim as a precursor to a lawsuit on Wherry's behalf. According to Knapp, the claim includes multiple violation of civil rights.
Update January 24, 2007:
The county has denied the claim against the PHS and Debi DeNardi by Wherry - paving the way for Wherry to have 6 months to file a lawsuit - a step County Counsel Tom Casey has said 95 % of claimants never take. This case has taken another turn when DeNardi requested a restraining order against Jim Knapp for allegedly posting a Craigslist message under her name. On January 18th Judge Beth Labson Freeman issued a ruling striking the petition for a preliminary injunction, thus essentially throwing it out for lack of evidence.
Wherry's new trial date is set for April 2nd, 2007 with a pre-trial conference scheduled for February 22nd.
Update February 23, 2007:
DeNardi will still be used as a prosecution witness in the animal abuse case against Wherry. After a 2 1/2 month investigation the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office will still use DeNardi stated Steve Wagstaff. Except for a felony charge of forgery and embezzlement that DeNardi had in 1994, no other allegations could be substantiated so Wagstaff said he will taken any risk of questionable credibility with a jury. DeNardi's felony charge from the 90's of taking nearly $96,000 from her own family's Floortrends store in San Francisco was reduced to a misdemeanor and dismissed. All of this information will be turned over to Wherry's defense attorney. Wagstaff said it's not clear why DeNardi's conviction didn't turn up during her hiring process but the case is listed in the San Francisco Municipal Court records under her maiden name of Debra Hanson. the Department of Justice background check on DeNardi came back clean prior to being hired by PHS/SPCA.
DeNardi was also investigated in October, 2006 by police but not charged with illegally breeding golden retrievers on her property in Colma and keeping livestock, namely miniature horses and pygmy goats. The city of Colma ultimately approved an ordinance allowing miniature horses, like the ones DeNardi keeps, as pets.
Wherry maintains that DeNardi filed the case against her because of a mutual acquaintance who was reportedly being evicted from the ranch for nonpayment of rent on some animals kept there. Wherry's new trial date is now set for June 25th, 2007 now that she has obtained Armando Garcia as her attorney.
Update May 13, 2007:
A newly expanded lawsuit against San Mateo County alleges that the county's contract with the PHS/SPCA for animal cruelty prevention is illegal.
The claim cites an obscure California law that prohibits cities and counties from reimbursing an outside humane society more than $500 per month for enforcing cruelty laws. The county is scheduled to pay the PHS close to $5 million this year as part of its long-standing contract for a wide variety of services. If the state law's intent was in fact to prevent the type of arrangement the county has with the humane society - it means investigators such as DeNardi should never have been subsidized by the county.
Attorney Mark Webb added the contract issue to the civil lawsuits claiming DeNardi abused her power in her position as an animal cruelly investigator. The civil suit implicate the humane society for hiring DeNardi even though she had been convicted in 1994 of a felony that a judge later expunged from her record. Webb stated "it is his understanding that the state of California decided some 10 years ago that...we don't want our taxpayer county and city money to go to subsidize these kinds of quasi-police activities, because we can't control them".
San Mateo County's Chief Deputy County Counsel Michael Murphy said "animal cruelty enforcement of the type DeNardi conducted is only a small part of what the county pays the humane society for. The contract is mainly for animal control". As of last summer, city and county money is no longer being used to pay the salaries of cruelty investigators, prior to that time, it had been paying a significant portion of DeNardi's salary.
|NBC11||The Burlingame Daily News|
The Daily Journal
|San Mateo County Board of Supervisors|
|Examiner||Redwood City Daily News|
Peninsula Humane Society/SPCA