Director of Columbia animal shelter cleared of cruelty charge

Board finds evidence in alleged neglect of Chihuahua 'evenly balanced'

February 27, 2010|By Luke Broadwater Patuxent Publications

The director of a nonprofit animal shelter in Columbia has been cleared of a civil charge of animal cruelty after she was accused of neglect of a Chihuahua named Jay Jay.

The Howard County Animal Matters Hearing Board released an opinion Thursday that dismissed the charge against Ellicott City resident Robin Deltuva, 36, the director of the Howard County Animal Welfare Society.

"This is a matter in which the board believes that the evidence is evenly balanced on the issue of whether or not Robin Deltuva committed animal cruelty for neglecting a Chihuahua named Jay Jay at her facility," the board's opinion said. Since the board considered the testimony of both sides to be equal, a preponderance of evidence did not exist for the board to fine Deltuva, members wrote.

The opinion was signed by county Animal Control Administrator Deborah Baracco, the board's executive secretary, and Rena Shooman, the board's chairwoman. Deltuva's attorney, Gary Peklo, said he was "pleased" with the decision.

A volunteer at the shelter, Kerrie Ater, testified that she saved Jay Jay's life after the dog nearly starved to death last year at the facility.

"He was semi-comatose. He was cold to the touch. He was nonresponsive," Ater said in a previous interview. "I saw him virtually at death's door."

According to Ater, she took the dog Aug. 6 to the Emergency Veterinary Clinic in Catonsville, where workers gave the animal a transfusion and nursed him back to health. Ater has since adopted the dog and said he has made a full recovery.

But Deltuva testified that she and her staff regularly fed the dog and tried to nurse him back to health after the animal was brought to the shelter in a malnourished state. A family in Anne Arundel County returned the dog to the shelter, saying its other dog fought with Jay Jay and wouldn't let the Chihuahua eat, according to the board's opinion.

Dr. Joseph Macino, a veterinarian, testified that he regularly visits Deltuva's shelter and the staff there goes "above and beyond the call of duty in caring for animals," the board's opinion said.

"There was no neglect or cruelty on the part of Robin," Peklo said. "She and her staff were nursing it back to health as she's done many times before."

In a separate case, Deltuva is charged in a one-count indictment with stealing more than $50,000 from the shelter between Jan. 1, 2008, and May 31, 2009. The alleged theft was reported by volunteers at the shelter, said Wayne Kirwan, spokesman for the Howard County state's attorney's office.

The theft case is scheduled for a May 4 trial in Howard County Circuit Court.

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