Decision pending on 19 dogs seized at Howard home

April 12, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The fate of 19 dogs, including 10 pudgy, playful tan and white puppies and their mother, Roxy, will be determined by Howard County officials in a clash with a 78-year-old woman who says she loves living with the large brood.

Animal control officers, who seized the dogs March 7, say they don't want to return them to Katherine Richards of Woodbine because she can't give them proper care. People who want to adopt the puppies await the county's decision. It is expected to be issued by May 2.

"Returning even a single animal to this environment, I think, would make me guilty of cruelty and neglect. I think it's a sad situation," animal control supervisor Lynn Neser testified before the county's Animal Matters Hearing Board last week.

Howard officials have seized dogs from Richards before and have repeatedly visited her isolated, rural home on 40 acres off a dirt lane in the 15200 block of Frederick Road. In 1997, records show, the county seized 37 animals -- dogs, cats, rabbits and chickens -- from the property.

The county contends that Richards, who lives alone on the second floor of a cluttered house that reeks of animal waste, neglects the dogs. Inspectors said rooms are filled with debris, passable only via narrow openings. A downstairs room was a repository for dozens of plastic bags filled with dog waste.

But Richards and her attorney, Mary Reese, contend that she takes good care of her dogs, and "what has offended the county is that they don't care for the interior of Mrs. Richards' home and they don't care for the odor," Reese told the board.

"I like to have a crowd around me. I was taking good care of them. Now, I'm lonesome," Richards testified, crying at the memory of the 18 dogs the county seized and put to death last year. She is so lonely, she said, that she sometimes calls county social workers so she has someone to speak with.

She did not answer a reporter's calls to her home for comment, and Reese declined to comment.

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