Case Snapshot
Case ID: 17879
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: dog (non pit-bull), bird (pet)
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Prosecutor(s): Colleen K. Swanson
Defense(s): Dino Flores
Judge(s): W. Milnor Roberts

For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

County: Frederick

Disposition: Convicted

» Ivan G. Issette
» Patsy L. Issette

Case Updates: 2 update(s) available

Officials from Frederick County Animal Control have filed charges in connection with a case of animal hoarding discovered in Brunswick last week.

Acting on an anonymous tip, officers on May 5 removed 95 dogs and seven birds from a house in the 100 block of East A Street, rescuing them from conditions that Animal Control Director Harold Domer said were unfit for animal or human habitation.

"The ammonia smell from urine and feces was overwhelming," Domer said.

One puppy was found dead at the house, and another dog had to be euthanized after a veterinary evaluation. A third dog could not be caught and remained in the house until Tuesday, when it was removed from the house, Domer said.

A criminal summons was issued Thursday for Ivan G. Issette, 63, and Patsy L. Issette, 65, charging them each with 17 counts of animal cruelty, according to court records.

"There is a state law that basically states a domestic pet owner must provide veterinary care, water, food in sufficient quantity, space and protection from the elements for animals that are under their care," Domer said. "That does not have appeared to have occurred in this case."

Domer said the maximum penalty for animal neglect is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for each count.

None of the dogs appeared to have received any veterinary care or were spayed, neutered or housebroken, and they were suffering from severe flea infestations, Domer said.

While some of the dogs had lost weight, Domer said none were seriously emaciated.

"The vast majority of them were of appropriate size and weight," Domer said.

Domer said it was the largest case of dog hoarding he has seen in the county, although he said there have been cases where more than 100 cats have been rescued from homes.

He said hoarders generally start out with a few animals and that conditions gradually deteriorate as more are added, in many cases without the owners being fully aware of it.

Animal hoarders generally believe they are acting in the best interest of the animals, Domer said.

"It just grows and grows," he said. "They get accustomed to it, whereas you and I would not."

The large number of dogs in this case appears to be in part the product of breeding among animals already in the home, Domer said. Most of the dogs are terrier/Chihuahua mixes.

"We've definitely seen many similarities between the dogs," Domer said.

Domer said the dogs are improving physically and emotionally and that some will likely become available for adoption within the next week or two. Several have already been sent to foster homes, as have the seven birds.

Domer said the large influx of animals has placed a considerable strain on the shelter's resources, nearly doubling its dog population. But staff and volunteers have stepped up to help deal with the situation, he said.

"We've had a great response from the volunteers at the shelter that have come in and assisted with this massive undertaking," Domer said.

Case Updates

A Brunswick couple who kept more than 100 animals in their home until the pets were seized by Frederick County Animal Control officers in May will serve no jail time as part of a plea agreement reached Thursday.

Ivan and Patsy Issette, of the 100 block of East A Street, pleaded guilty to 33 animal abuse charges and were ordered to serve 1,080 days' probation " with 18 months supervised " after Associate Judge W. Milnor Roberts suspended a nearly three-year sentence and the state dropped 65 charges against the couple as part of the agreement, Assistant State's Attorney Colleen K. Swanson said.

The probation order forbids the couple from keeping animals in their home for 1,080 days -- nearly three years.

Ninety-five dogs and seven birds were found in the couple's home when Frederick County Animal Control officials raided their house in May. Animal excrement covered the floors, 6 inches deep in places, Swanson said.

The agreement included one count of infliction of unnecessary suffering and 32 counts of failure to provide adequate veterinary care, Swanson said.

During the 18 months of supervised probation, the Issettes must undergo psychiatric evaluations and complete any treatment assigned by their probation officer. Completing assigned treatment could extend beyond the probationary period, Swanson said.

The Issettes " Ivan, 63, and Patsy, 65 " had no prior criminal record.

They were also ordered to pay $755 restitution to Buckeystown Veterinary Hospital, where Animal Control took the animals for assessment.

The Issettes' lawyer, Dino Flores, said his clients always intended to take care of the animals, which started out as a few and multiplied unrestrained. The Issettes spent $11,000 on dog food in 2010, he said.

"They got into a situation they could not handle," he said.

It started with a well-meaning desire to save the animals from being put down, Flores said.

"They couldn't live with that," he said. "They loved animals."

Swanson said that whatever the couple's original intention, the result was harmful to the animals. According to veterinary records, the Issettes had not sought any treatment for the dogs since 2004, and the animals had not been allowed outside the filthy house, she said.

"The animals were in dire condition," Swanson said.

Animal Control found the animals infested with fleas, suffering from skin conditions and a lack of socialization. Swanson called it a clear case of animal hoarding.

Animal Control put down one dog almost immediately; 32 others that could not be saved or rehabilitated for adoption were put down later, Swanson said. The number destroyed accounted for the number of charges to which the couple pleaded guilty, she said.

"It's a tragic situation," Swanson said. "In terms of outcome it's a very sad case."

Since their arrest, the Issettes have been remodeling the interior of their home, Flores said. The couple invited Animal Control to see the work they have done to improve the house.

"They have really done a major turnaround," Flores said. "They've been helped by Animal Control to get their life back."

Swanson said Animal Control will be allowed to conduct random, unscheduled inspections during the probation.
Source: - Aug 12, 2011
Update posted on Aug 14, 2011 - 1:37PM 
A Brunswick couple who kept nearly 100 dogs in their home are now being charged for each dog removed from the house last month after officials applied for a new set of charges in the case.

Officers from Frederick County Animal Control had originally applied for 98 charges each against Ivan G. Issette, 63, and Patsy L. Issette, 65, but a District Court commissioner decided to move forward with only 17 charges.

Animal Control Director Harold Domer said officials decided not to pursue those charges and to reapply for all 98 of the original charges after discussions between Animal Control and the Frederick County State's Attorney's Office. A criminal summons was issued Monday, according to court records.

"For reasons we didn't necessarily agree with, the commissioner decided at that time to issue 17 charges," Domer said. "Our issue was that we had probable cause to believe each and every animal did not receive proper veterinary care."

Officers on May 5 removed 95 dogs -- all but one of which were Chihuahua-terrier mixes -- and seven birds from the house in the 100 block of East A Street. One dead puppy was also removed from the house. According to charging documents filed in Frederick County District Court, the dog had been dead for a while and was found in a room officers described as containing feces up to 2 feet deep in some places. Another dog could not be caught immediately and was removed on May 10.

In addition to 97 counts of failure to provide proper care for the dogs, the Issettes are also charged with one count of inflicting unnecessary pain and suffering on an animal.

Domer said that charge was related to a 15-year-old Lhasa apso mix that according to court documents was kept in a crate for nearly its entire life.

According to the documents, the dog's hair was severely matted, its crate filled with hair and feces, and the wire rusting away from exposure to urine. The dog -- which Patsy Issette told officers was crated because the other dogs picked on it -- was put down after being examined by a veterinarian.

Domer said 32 other dogs have since been put down after evaluations revealed either temperament or health issues.

"If they are animal-aggressive or people-aggressive, they are not adoptable, and animal rescues are at their capacities with helping us," Domer said.

Ivan Issette warned officers that some of the dogs were prone to biting, and he was bitten by at least three of the dogs while trying to catch them for removal, causing injuries on his hand that required six stitches to treat, the documents stated.

According to the documents, Ivan Issette's first words to officers at the scene were "I need help." He explained that the situation had gotten out of control and expressed relief after the dogs were removed from the house.

Patsy Issette - who initially said there were only six dogs in the house - told officers that the large number of dogs was the result of a male and a female dog the couple got when their children were still living at home, the documents stated. Not one of the animals was spayed or neutered.

Domer said 31 dogs and all seven birds have been taken in by several area animal rescue organizations. He said 12 more remain in the shelter's foster care program, and 17 others are still available for adoption. Domer said few people have been interested in adopting the dogs, with only four finding homes so far.

"The problem is that there hasn't been the interest in the Brunswick case as there has been with other abandonment and neglect cases," Domer said.
Source: - Jun 8, 2011
Update posted on Jun 9, 2011 - 1:34AM 


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