Who, age What Where When Last Known Address
Laura Lawson 115 animals seized from pet boarding business

Martinsburg, WV

Berkeley County

May 4, 2011  
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved Case Status Next Court Date /Courthouse

115 cats, dogs, exotic birds & iguana



More than 110 cats, dogs, exotic birds and an iguana were seized as part of an ongoing animal cruelty investigation at a pet grooming and boarding business in Berkeley County.

A search warrant was executed by police and animal control officers at Pooch Parlor Grooming & Rooming For Dogs & Cats located at 87 Van Clevesville Road. A sign outside the facility said it had been in existence since 1977.

An earlier investigation by Berkeley County Animal Control found multiple animals in or around feces and enclosed in structures that had a very potent smell of urine, according to a press release issued by Lt. W.A. Johnson.

Johnson stated that 115 animals were removed from the premises by animal control officers.

All of the Berkeley County Animal Control officers and a veterinarian were on scene during the seizure, and the animals are currently being housed at the Animal Control facility.

Berkeley County Sheriff Kenneth "Kenny" Lemaster said he wasn't sure if criminal warrants had been issued yet, as the investigation is ongoing. He said animal control officers had received reports about possible poor conditions at the facility and notified the owner prior to the seizure.

"In most cases when they receive a complaint or a notification, they try to monitor and they try to get the owners or the people in control of the animals to straighten it out and take care of the problem before it goes to this stage," he said.  Johnson said further investigation is pending the health report of the animals seized.

Berkeley County Animal Control Supervisor Donna McMahon referred all questions about the investigation to Lemaster because she was not authorized to speak to the media.

Those with information about the incident are asked by police to contact Johnson at 304-267-7000 or the Berkeley County Crime Solvers, where you can remain anonymous, at 304-267-4999.

Update 5/17/11:  After closed-door negotiations between attorneys that lasted about an hour, an agreement was reached regarding the recent seizure of more than 110 cats, dogs, exotic birds and an iguana as part of an ongoing animal cruelty investigation at a pet grooming and boarding business in Berkeley County.

Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Saunders is expected to present Berkeley County Magistrate Jim Humphrey with an agreed order signed by both her and Michael Santa Barbara, the attorney representing Laura Lawson, owner of the animals, that will list in detail the specifics of the agreement reached at the seizure hearing. The agreement only deals with the issue of the custody of the animals, not the ongoing criminal investigation.

"We have reached an agreement. ... It will take care of the seizure case. The reason it took so long was because there were 110 animals to discuss. I will prepare the order," Saunders told the court.

As part of the agreed order, which Humphrey also will have to sign off on for it to go into effect, the state is expected to agree to return 14 of the animals seized to Lawson, so long as their living conditions are up to Berkeley County Animal Control's standards. Lawson also will have to post a $5,585 bond to pay for the care of the remaining animals still in the state's custody within 30 days of the entry of the agreed order. If she fails to post the bond, the county could be granted full custody of the seized animals, some of which are currently in foster homes or have already been adopted out.

"All that will be specified in the order, which animals will be returned and which animals we are keeping," Saunders told the court.

At least three cats, three dogs, an iguana and birds are expected to be among the animals returned to Lawson as part of the agreed order. No criminal charges have been filed against Lawson but the investigation is ongoing.

"It's the type of case where there are just too many animals," Saunders told the court.


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