A year in jail, $800 in fines, and a restriction against ever owning a companion animal again: this was the sentence handed down to 52-year-old Patti Wheeler, on trial in Chesterfield County General District Court for, among other charges, five counts of animal cruelty.
“The judge found the conditions to be deplorable, and that obviously prompted him to take the actions that he took,” says Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Robert J. Fierro, Jr.
Wheeler was arrested in May 2009 when Animal Control officers visited her home in the 4500 block of Treely Rd. to remove 56 cats and four dogs, which were said to be living in a scene of “cruelty and neglect.” Testimony from neighbors and during the trial revealed that Wheeler did not live in the home full-time, but simply visited to feed the animals.
Investigation of the home revealed that it was uninhabitable; according to the Times-Dispatch, no area of the now-condemned home was free from urine, feces, skeletal remains, or dried blood and hair. Chesterfield General District Judge Robert D. Laney certified a felony charge of destruction of private property to a grand jury.
Of the 60 animals living in the home, 30 cats and two dogs had to be euthanized.
Wheeler was convicted of five counts of animal cruelty, receiving a five-year sentence with four of those years suspended. In addition, she has been charged with three counts of improperly disposing of a dead animal, which will net her $750 in fines, and has been ordered to pay a further $50 for failure to obtain a kennel license for her four dogs. Wheeler plans to appeal her cruelty and property charges in Chesterfield County Circuit Court. No date has yet been set for the trial, although Fierro expects Wheeler to be indicted in late November or early December of this year.
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