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Thursday, Aug 31, 2006County: Cass
Defendant/Suspect: Gail Widmer
A former head of the Fargo-Moorhead Humane Society who pleaded guilty to an animal mistreatment charge on Nov 13, 2007 said the following day that she loves and cares for her two dogs and two cats.
"I pled guilty just to put it behind me. I'm on a limited income and I really couldn't afford a lawyer," said Gail Widmer, 29, referring to a misdemeanor charge filed in Cass County District Court.
The charge accused Widmer, executive director of the Humane Society for a year before leaving the job in August 2004, of keeping animals in a back bedroom of a West Fargo apartment without adequate care.
In August, West Fargo police received a call that maintenance workers attempting to enter an apartment to fix an air-conditioning unit could not do so because the smell of urine and feces was so strong. The officer found it smelling so strongly of urine and feces that she nearly vomited when trying to enter, according to court records.
"In 14 years of law enforcement, I have never in my life smelled anything so bad as what I encountered when we opened the door," Police Officer Stacy Dawkins wrote in court documents.
"I could not even enter the residence. I was standing on the balcony actually gagging, almost throwing up," Dawkins said.
The building manager told Dawkins that during an earlier visit to the apartment, she had opened the bedroom door and a number of cats had rushed out to the bathroom for water. Dawkins' report said she saw no animals in the apartment before she had to leave on an emergency call.
The officer said she returned the next day and found a small dog in the apartment and a much larger dog locked in a kennel in the back bedroom. She said she found food in the bedroom but no water.
Dawkins said Tuesday that Widmer moved out of the apartment unit before she could be questioned.
"Anytime you have animals, there's going to be an odor. They don't always smell like roses," Widmer said, adding that her cats have litter box issues.
"They're older cats. They don't always quite make it," she said.
Widmer said that before moving out of her West Fargo apartment late last summer, it was starting to get messy.
"I was working a lot. I wasn't on top of my cleaning," she said.
Court documents state that Widmer's neighbors did not see her taking her dogs, one a corgi and the other a shepherd mix, outside very much.
"Well, they probably didn't, because I work an odd schedule," Widmer said.
"I'm off at 3, 4 in the morning. Everybody's sleeping when I come home and let my dogs out," said Widmer, who now lives in Fargo.
A disposition filed in Widmer's case required her to pay $600 in fines and to serve one year of probation. East Central District Judge Wade Webb says if Widmer completes her probation without incident, her guilty plea may be withdrawn and the case dismissed.
One of the terms gives police the authority to enter her residence to check on her animals.
According to court records, part of the apartment had to be ripped out to make it habitable for the next tenant.
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