BUTLER TOWNSHIP — Operating under a court order headed with the words “neglected dogs,” the Knox County Dog Warden removed an unknown number of animals from a Butler Township dog rescue Wednesday.
The dog warden, Licking County animal control and Knox County Sheriff’s Office were at Pittie Paws dog rescue at 29710 Coshocton Road due to the animals being in “imminent danger of being deprived of water,” according to an affidavit by Knox County Dog Warden John Carhart filed Wednesday morning in Knox County Common Pleas Court.
Court documents indicate there were at least 50 dogs being held in the rescue, which is housed in an old cabinet shop. Carhart declined comment Wednesday.
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The dogs are being taken into the dog warden’s care, Knox County Prosecuting Attorney Chip McConville said.
In Carhart’s affidavit, he reported a 170-gallon water holding tank at the rescue was about half full Tuesday and would be depleted within 24 hours. In the memorandum, Carhart states that the animals needed to be removed immediately to “preserve the well-being of the dogs.” In 24 hours without water, Carhart writes that the interior of the building would become “filthy.” Water was being trucked in up the driveway to the tank, as the former cabinet shop has no running water or well.
The dog warden’s action comes after Pittie Paws failed to open new access to the property after the current driveway access to Coshocton Road was shut off. Henry Troyer, the owner of the property where Pittie Paws’ driveway crosses, closed off access to the drive Tuesday.
According to court documents, Troyer’s attorney, Kim Rose, notified Pittie Paws owner Kristin Beaupry Aug. 14 that Troyer would be constructing a fence “to define Mr. Troyer’s property line” that would “cut off (Pittie Paws) access to” the building the rescue was located. The letter gave Pittie Paws a month’s notice, and recommended Pittie Paws find another entrance to the building. The letter was also sent to the property owner, listed in court documents as Robert Ackerman, Ironton.
Two weeks later, Troyer sent a reminder. The planned fence construction date was given as Sept. 17.
A post and wire barrier was in place across the driveway Tuesday, according to court records, connecting to an existing fence post on the other side.
Rose said Troyer was acting to preserve his property rights and that Pittie Paws “is somewhat irrelevant” in the matter. Particularly, Rose said there is a concern of adverse possession, which allows property to be taken by a non-property owner if they use it for a stated number of years. In Ohio, adverse possession occurs after 21 years.
Rose said Troyer had formerly allowed access to the property when it housed the cabinet shop.
McConville said he reviewed the issue and found that Troyer “was acting within his rights” in closing off his property.
Beaupry presented Carhart with an easement for access, but the easement was for a property 1,100 feet away, according to court records.
The memorandum states that Carhart’s office has been visiting the rescue weekly since an Aug. 27 inspection. The inspection found that “conditions were not proper for the care of so many animals. In particular, there were issues with airflow, mold, lighting and condition of kennel enclosures.”
The dog warden conducted the Aug. 27 inspection under a court order after Beaupry, through her mother, tried to cancel. Pittie Paws set up in the building in July, without informing the Ohio Department of Agriculture that they had moved there from Licking County.
McConville declined to comment on whether charges were being considered.
Amanda Cody watched from her house next door as the dogs were being removed. Cody said for the last three months, she has lived with concerns about the safety of her own family and pets, as well as the well-being of the dogs at the rescue. Researching the rescue after Pittie Paws first moved in, Cody said she learned that a lot of the animals had behavior issues that made them unsuitable to be around other dogs and people.
“At first our concerns were about our dogs, but then that concern went away because we never saw the dogs,” Cody said. “After we got curious and researched Pittie Paws, and saw what was happening, we got concerned for the well being of the rescue dogs.”
The old cabinet shop sits about 500 feet from Cody’s residence. Cody said she rarely saw any of the dogs come out of the building to be walked, and those that were, were the same few dogs. The smell of dog feces was ever present, Cody said.
Cody said she had met and spoke to the rescue owners on numerous occasions, and described the encounters as negative.
Beaupry has been charged in Licking County Municipal Court with 24 counts of prohibitions concerning companion animals, charges that stem from dead and dying cats discovered at Beaupry’s former residence in Licking County. Beaupry has pleaded not guilty to the charges.