Case Snapshot
Case ID: 17478
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: cat, dog (non pit-bull), bird (pet)
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Thursday, Feb 17, 2011

County: Linn

Disposition: Convicted

Defendant/Suspect: Jennifer Leslie Wood

Case Updates: 6 update(s) available

Thirty-five animals were seized from a Cedar Rapids house Thursday evening because of unsanitary conditions, officials said.

Animal Control officers and police took 32 dogs, two cats and a parrot from the home of Jennifer L. Wood, 36, at 308 30th St. Dr. SE. The dogs ranged in size from Great Pyrenees to Dachshund, authorities said.

Wood has not yet been charged, pending an inspection of the animals this weekend.

This is at least the third time Wood has had animals seized from her residences in Cedar Rapids. In 1999, when she was known as Jennifer Hicks, officers took 118 animals from her home at 1260 Houston Ct. NE, according to Gazette archives. The animals taken included 43 cats, 16 dogs, 15 cockatiels, 14 domestic rats, six turtles, five lizards, four frogs, three hamsters, three gerbils, two guinea pigs, three mice, two rabbits and two ferrets.

Two years earlier, Wood had 16 cats, 11 dogs and four rabbits taken from her home by animal control.

No charges were filed against Wood, but in an agreement with city after the 1999 seizure, she promised not to house more than six animals in a Cedar Rapids residence.

Wood owns an animal shelter and pet shop called The Puppy Playground, at 85 North Center Point Rd., No. 70, in Hiawatha. Just last week, police and a state inspector found 60 dogs and 29 cats in unsanitary conditions inside the strip mall business, officials said.

Inspector Stephanie Black found extreme crowding and inadequate ventilation that led to an "overwhelming urine smell."

"Sanitation especially lacking in grooming area, where strays are housed alongside animals of grooming clients," Black wrote in the report. "Tub area unclean. Sanitation very concerning. Electrical cord hazards."

Dustin Vande Hoef, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Agriculture, said Wood agreed this week to give up the animals. Wood told the inspector she would continue to operate Puppy Playground only as a pet grooming business, Vande Hoef said.

"We'll still work with her to make sure she does follow through," Vande Hoef said.

A sign on the door to the business Friday said it would be closed because Wood was sick.

Vande Hoef said thorough background checks are not conducted on people who apply for a license to operate an animal welfare facility. He said the two-page application only asks if the person has been convicted of animal abuse or neglect or if they have ever had their license to care for animals revoked.

Vande Hoef was unsure if officials were aware of the previous animal seizures at Wood's residences, and was unable to access her application Friday.

Animals taken from Wood's home Thursday were taken to the Cedar Rapids Animal Shelter. As a result, the shelter shut down Friday through the holiday weekend to process all the animals.

"With the seizure of 32 dogs, we have doubled our maximum holding capacity at the shelter," said Diane Webber, who heads the city's Animal Control and Care division. "Situations like this put a huge burden on both staff and financial resources for the shelter."

Inspection report Puppy Playground


Case Updates

The woman accused of 35 counts of animal abuse and other code violations didn't start her defense Wednesday because she accepted a plea agreement with the City.

After two days of graphic trial testimony regarding two animals suffering from severe physical and life-threatening conditions and the extreme unsanitary conditions of her home, Jennifer Wood, 36, she pleaded guilty to 35 counts of unhealthy or unsanitary conditions. The animal abuse counts were dismissed, as well as the remaining unhealthy charges.

Wood was charged with 35 counts of animal abuse and two violations of unhealthy and unsanitary conditions after officials seized 32 dogs, two cats and a parrot from her home at 308 30th St. Dr. SE on Feb. 17.

Animal control officers testified her home "was pretty appalling" with feces and urine covering much of the flooring, and 35 animals living inside, many in cages or kennels.

Tom Viner, Wood's attorney, said she was ordered to pay $50 on each count and court costs. Restitution will be determined later at a hearing set July 29. She also won't be allowed, as part of the plea deal, to own, harbor or keep any animals within the city limits of Cedar Rapids without a further court order, he said.

"Ms. Wood is happy that the untold part of the story came out in court," Viner said. "She maintains she hasn't abused animals. Today's resolution was a fair one."

Viner said this would also leave Wood open to work with animals in the future.

Assistant City Attorney Liz Jacobi didn't return a phone message left Wednesday.

The civil case against Wood concerning whether Cedar Rapids Animal Care and Control can take ownership of the animals removed from Wood's home and start adoptions has been settled, according to an order filed Wednesday in Linn County District Court. The order doesn't state what will happen to the animals, only that the City will likely dismiss the matter.

Viner said he couldn't comment on the civil case.

Wood still faces charges in Iowa County for animal cruelty and four counts of failing to dispose of animal carcasses for the conditions at a farm she owns near North English.

Nearly 300 animals in Wood's care have either been taken from her or voluntarily surrendered since 1997, because of unsanitary conditions, according to a SourceMedia Group investigation. In February she has lost control of at least 140 animals, including those 32 found in her home, closed her business and resigned from an animal rescue operation.

Records show Wood started a business in Hiawatha called The Puppy Playground in 2003. She avoided charges after a 1999 raid " agreeing only to keep no more than six animals in a Cedar Rapids residence, which at the time the application for her state license did not require her to disclose previous animal seizures.

When a state inspector went to The Puppy Playground, there were 60 dogs and 29 cats housed in the strip mall space. An inspector noted extreme crowding and inadequate ventilation that led to an "overwhelming urine smell."

Wood also was involved with At-Risk Animals Rescue and Rehab in Cedar Rapids. The rescued animals were mostly kept at the Hiawatha business.

Wood volunteered to resign as president of animal rescue group after officers seized the 35 animals from her home which resulted in the original animal abuse charges.
Source: easterniowanewsnow.com - May 18, 2011
Update posted on May 18, 2011 - 8:28PM 
Jennifer Wood, the woman charged with dozens of counts of animal abuse in Cedar Rapids, was arrested in Colorado last week and is scheduled to be in court Friday.

Wood, 36, was arrested March 24 at a residence in Red Feather Lakes, Colo. on two counts of being a fugitive from justice. Larimer County sheriff's deputies took her into custody without incident.

"We were contacted by an investigator on the case that had specific information about her whereabouts," said John Schulz, spokesman for the sheriff's office.

Wood spent two nights in jail and was released after posting a $10,000 bond. She is scheduled to appear before a judge Friday morning in Colorado.

The arrest came a week after a second warrant was issued for Wood's arrest in Iowa. She has been charged with 35 counts of animal abuse and two counts of unhealthy and unsanitary conditions after officials seized 32 dogs, two cats and a parrot from her home at 308 30th St. Dr. SE on Feb. 17.

A dead dog and dead cat also were found in bags in her garage, authorities said.

Animal Control and Care Manager Diane Webber said she was not sure if the arrest would aid the prosecution of Wood. She said she would be watching closely to see if Wood shows up for Friday's court appearance.

Webber has previously said the city will try to recover costs for veterinary care and shelter fees for the animals that were seized, which currently amounts to more than $25,000.

Wood is also charged in Iowa County with animal cruelty and four counts of failing to dispose of animal carcasses for the conditions at farm she owns near North English. Her lawyer filed a written plea of not guilty this week, according to online court records.

Iowa County Sheriff Robert Rotter said Wood's recent arrest is unlikely to have any effect on their warrant, because suspects are not extradited from other states on simple misdemeanors.

Things unraveled quickly for Wood last month after a customer told police about unsanitary conditions at her pet grooming business in Hiawatha. In one week, she lost control of more than 140 animals, closed the business and resigned from an animal rescue operation.

Wood has declined to comment publicly.

In all, nearly 300 animals in Wood's care have either been taken from her or voluntarily surrendered since 1997, mostly because of unsanitary conditions.
Source: easterniowanewsnow.com - Mar 31, 2011
Update posted on Mar 31, 2011 - 11:17AM 
Criminal charges have been filed against a woman whose animals were seized from her Cedar Rapids home last month.

Jennifer Wood, 36, has been charged with 35 counts of animal abuse and two counts of unhealthy and unsanitary conditions after officers took 32 dogs, two cats and a parrot from her home at 308 30th St. Dr. SE on Feb. 17. A dead dog and dead cat also were found in bags in her garage, authorities said.

Animal Control and Care Manager Diane Webber said charges were filed late Thursday afternoon. She said Wood's attorney called her Wednesday, but Wood's whereabouts are still unknown.

Webber said the city will seek to recover costs for veterinary care and shelter fees for the animals that were seized, which currently amounts to $25,000. She said the animals are continuing to recover.

"When I said before that this puts a huge burden on the shelter, I wasn't kidding," Webber said. "The amount of veterinary care they need is just mind-blowing."

Webber said in order for the criminal charges to hold any weight, Wood must be served. Rumors have swirled that Wood is now out-of-state, and Webber said she is considering options to track her down.

Anticipating difficulty in finding Wood, the city also is considering citing Wood with municipal infractions. That would allow officials to serve the attorney and push for restrictions on the number of animals Wood can have in Cedar Rapids, Webber said.

"We're just taking it one step at a time," Webber said.

Last week, a warrant was issued for Wood's arrest, after she didn't show up for an Iowa County court appearance. She was scheduled to be in court to face charges of animal cruelty and failing to dispose of animal carcasses for the conditions at farm she owns near North English. Wood surrendered seven dogs and two horses that were kept there.

Wood also recently closed her Hiawatha business, The Puppy Playground, after a state inspector found 60 dogs and 29 cats living in a crowded, unsanitary environment. The animals, which belonged to a rescue group Wood was involved with, have since been relocated to other rescue operations.

The Cedar Rapids seizure was the third time animals have been taken from one of Wood's residences in the city. She had 16 cats, 11 dogs and four rabbits taken away in 1997. Two years later, she had 118 animals " mostly cats, dogs, birds and rats " taken from her home at 1260 Houston Ct. NE.

No charges were filed against Wood, who was then known as Jennifer Hicks, for either incident. She reached an agreement with the city after the 1999 seizure to keep no more than six animals in any residence in Cedar Rapids, according to Gazette archives.

In all, nearly 300 animals in Wood's care have either been taken from her or voluntarily surrendered since 1997, mostly because of unsanitary conditions.
Source: kcrg.com - Mar 18, 2011
Update posted on Mar 18, 2011 - 11:57PM 
The woman at the center of a number of animal abuse investigations now faces four counts of Failure to Dispose of a Livestock Carcass in Iowa County.

Jennifer Leslie Wood, 36, of North English, was charged after authorities found what appeared to be three dead llamas and a dead pot bellied pig at a farm at 3136 S Avenue near North English.

Wood has voluntarily turned over seven dogs on that property to Safe Haven and two horses owned by Wood will be turned over to a horse rescue organization.

The animal carcasses appeared to have been on the property for at least two months.

On Feb. 17, Cedar Rapids Police seized 35 animals from a home owned by Wood at 308 30th Street Drive SE. They included 32 dogs, two cats and a parrot. Those were all taken to the Cedar Rapids Animal Care and Control Center.

Earlier in February, the Iowa Department of Agriculture inspected Wood's business, Puppy Playground in Hiawatha and found it overcrowded and animals living in unsanitary conditions. The business is now closed and the animals have been turned over to authorities.

Wood is scheduled to appear in Iowa County Court on March 8.

Charges in Cedar Rapids are still pending.
Source: kwwl.com - Feb 24, 2011
Update posted on Feb 25, 2011 - 11:50PM 
Authorities found four animal carcasses during an investigation in Iowa County this week.

Officials say three llamas and a pot bellied pig had likely been dead for at least two months when they were discovered by Iowa County deputies in North English. Jennifer Wood, the owner of the property, faces four counts of failure to dispose of a livestock carcass.

Wood has repeatedly dealt with issues like this. Since 1997, almost 300 animals have been taken from her or voluntarily surrendered. That includes losing control of at least 140 animals, closing her business, and resigning from an animal rescue operation.

In the most recent search, volunteers took possession of seven dogs from a Iowa County property on Thursday. Authorities say Wood voluntarily turned over the animals to Safe Haven, a local animal shelter. Another organization will take possession of two of Wood's horses, authorities said.
Source: kcrg.com - Feb 24, 2011
Update posted on Feb 25, 2011 - 11:40PM 
Dominoes have continued to fall for Jennifer Wood, the woman whose animals were seized from her southeast Cedar Rapids home last week.

Nearly 300 animals in Wood's care have either been taken from her or voluntarily surrendered since 1997, because of unsanitary conditions, according to a KCRG-TV9 investigation. In the past week alone, she has lost control of at least 140 animals, closed her business and resigned from an animal rescue operation.

Wood, 36, recently agreed to give up nine more dogs, two horses and a few cats that she kept on a farm at 3136 S Ave. near North English. Iowa County Sheriff Robert Rotter said his office had taken several complaints about the number of dogs on the property.

Rotter said the animals appeared healthy and had access to food, water and shelter, but there was public concern that they weren't getting enough care. He said Wood agreed to give up the animals because she was "overwhelmed with all that is going on in her life right now."

"I think we can all agree animals need more care than what is afforded them by Iowa Code," Rotter wrote in an e-mail. "Dogs, being social animals, need much more than food, water and shelter."

Wood bought the Iowa County property with Ken Wasson Jr. in 1999, about six months after she had 118 animals seized from her home in Cedar Rapids at the time, 1260 Houston Ct. NE. Wasson's daughter, Leia Gifford, 26, of Fallbrook, Calif., said 19 dogs, 16 cats, and other various animals lived in the house during the six months she lived there.

Gifford said Wood, known as Jennifer Hicks then, worked at a shelter and would routinely bring animals home, despite her father's pleas for her to stop. She said Wood feared that she would get caught with too many animals again, so she only let a few animals outside at a time.

The animals were fed, but would regularly urinate and defecate inside the house, Gifford said.

"I couldn't even cook, because there cats sleeping in pots and pans," Gifford said. "There was fur everywhere."

Records show Wood started a business in Hiawatha called The Puppy Playground in 2003. She had avoided charges after the 1999 raid " agreeing only to keep no more than six animals in a Cedar Rapids residence " and, at the time, the application for her state license did not require her to disclose previous animal seizures.

Dustin Vande Hoef, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Agriculture, said the application was updated in 2010, and now asks applicants to list previous convictions for animal abuse or neglect.

Back in the Cedar Rapids area, Wood got involved with At-Risk Animals Rescue and Rehab. One of volunteers in the group, Eric Holub, 43, of Marion, said the rescued animals were mostly kept at The Puppy Playground.

In an e-mail to SourceMedia Group in January, Wood said the rescue operation saved puppy-mill dogs and animals that had run out of time at other shelters.

"Many of them have never walked on grass, lived in a house or had much positive contact with humans at all," Wood wrote. "…We try to get the animals into foster homes as much as possible, but there is always a greater need than there is people willing to foster them."

By the time a state inspector arrived at The Puppy Playground last week, there were 60 dogs and 29 cats housed in the strip mall space. Inspector Stephanie Black noted extreme crowding and inadequate ventilation that led to an "overwhelming urine smell."

"Sanitation especially lacking in grooming area, where strays are housed alongside animals of grooming clients," Black wrote in the report. "Tub area unclean. Sanitation very concerning. Electrical cord hazards."

Volunteers with the rescue organization have spent the last several days cleaning the space and removing the animals, Holub said. He said all of the animals would be taken to other rescues in Iowa by Friday.

"People knew (Wood) wouldn't say 'no,' because she does have a big heart," Holub said. "She had the right intentions, just not the right facility."

Wood volunteered to resign as president of animal rescue group after officers seized 32 dogs, two cats and a parrot from her home at 308 30th St. Dr. SE on Thursday. One dog was dead inside the filthy home, and at least two dogs have required surgery since, authorities said.

Animal Care and Control Manager Diane Webber was scheduled to meet with the city attorney Wednesday to determine charges against Wood. Webber said the animals have made significant improvements.

"They are responding beautifully since being taken out of that situation and having day-to-day care," Webber said. "They've just changed, almost overnight. They are progressing, and doing better, but it's going to be a long haul for some of them."

Webber said Wood apparently moved animals around to various residences to avoid charges. Animal control officers made periodic visits to Wood's home in the past year to investigate neighbor complaints, but usually would not make contact with Wood, she said.

When the officers returned for follow-up visits, there were always fewer animals, and the problems appeared to be corrected.

Webber, who was hired in 2009, said she was unaware of Wood's past, and noted that all animal control records were destroyed by the 2008 flood.

"We do not have the manpower or resources to make weekly visits to one address," Webber said. "It's very difficult to enforce."

Wood has stayed silent as things unraveled. Multiple attempts to reach her and her family members have been unsuccessful.

Safe Haven of Iowa County has agreed to take the dogs and cats from the farm near North English. Board president Jill Smothers said she is convinced Wood had good intentions, based on their recent conversations.

"She means well," Smothers said. "She just gets in over her head and doesn't have enough help."

Resources for Pet Adoption:

http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/IA125.html

http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/IA167.html

Safe Haven of Iowa County " (319) 655-8633
Source: kcrg.com - Feb 21, 2011
Update posted on Feb 25, 2011 - 11:37PM 

References


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