Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19884
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Person(s) in animal care
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Attorneys/Judges
Judge(s): Larry Pentz


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Friday, Mar 8, 2013

County: Franklin

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Convicted

Defendant/Suspect: Joanna Toms

Case Updates: 5 update(s) available

A Waynesboro woman has been charged with 27 counts of cruelty to animals in connection to the surrendering of numerous rottweilers to the Antietam Humane Society from her Tritle Avenue home.

Humane society cruelty officer Dennis Bumbaugh filed the charges against Joanna Toms, 49, of Tritle Ave., on Monday. Toms surrendered 19 rottweilers to the humane society on March 11.

Charging documents filed in Magisterial District Judge Larry Pentz's office indicate the 27 counts include eight puppies that were found in a freezer inside her home.

The dogs were taken from the home after the humane society had received a number of complaints regarding unsanitary conditions in the home, which executive director Andrea Haugh referred to as "deplorable."

Toms was charged with one count of a dog license violation for having four dogs without licenses, as well as the unlawful operation of a kennel that was filed by Franklin County Dog Law Enforcement Officer Georgia Martin, according to Pentz.

Toms reportedly suffered a medical problem March 8 and on March 9, her husband called the humane society to make arrangements to pick up the dogs, Haugh said.

Pentz said Toms faces a fine of $50 to $750 plus costs for each count of animal cruelty, along with fines and costs associated with the other charges. Toms has 10 days from the date she receives the summonses to enter a plea, he noted.

If she pleads not guilty, a trial before Pentz will be scheduled; if she pleads guilty, she will be sentenced by Pentz.
Pentz also may prohibit or limit Toms from owning animals or working at a job that involves the care of animals for 90 days for each offense of animal cruelty, he said.

Most of the 19 dogs, which ranged in age from 1- to 10- to 12-years-old, were kept in the home, according to Haugh. Only one appeared to have a medical condition that required immediate attention and is still being treated by a veterinarian. The majority of the dogs appeared friendly, Haugh said, but had limited socialization.

Dogs have been transferred to other shelters, including Cumberland Valley, Adams and Washington counties and Better Days, according to Haugh.

"We're still working with rescues to try to transfer additional dogs," Haugh said. "None of the dogs we have here are currently available for adoption," according to Haugh, who advised residents to check the websites of the other shelters to determine "if and when they are ready to be adopted. I sent the most adoptable ones out," she added.

"As soon as dogs (here) are available for adoption, it will be posted on our website."


Case Updates

Waynesboro woman Joanna Toms, found guilty in May of 27 counts of cruelty to animals for the 19 Rottweilers removed from her home, was back in court for an appeal hearing on Oct. 17.
No decision was made during the hearing, but Judge John Walker set a plan for further action.

Both the defense and prosecuting attorneys have been asked by Walker to send him letters with their arguments and cases regarding what the statute of "wanton or cruelty or negligence" stands for, within 10 days of the hearing. He ordered these letters to include "legal definitions and any other arguments they want to make in their case," according to court documents.

Walker is expecting the letters no later than Tuesday. According to District Attorney Matt Fogal, the judge usually then takes 10 days to make a decision.

Toms, 49, left the dogs from her Rott Stop Rehab kennel, 199 Tritle Ave., in the care of her estranged husband, Gary Toms, when she needed medical attention on March 9. She was in the hospital for five days.

According to previous reports in Public Opinion, her husband didn't feel comfortable taking care of all of the dogs, and surrendered the animals to the Franklin County Humane Society, which placed them in various shelters and foster care programs.

Humane Society investigator Dennis Bumbaugh told Public Opinion in May that he had received complaints about Toms, but wasn't permitted to enter her home until March 11. He said he could smell feces and urine from the sidewalk outside, and that inside dogs were in unclean crates or tied to the stairs and couch.

Nineteen dogs were found in "deplorable" conditions, and eight puppies were found in a freezer.

Toms claimed that the puppies were stillborn, except for one that died three days after birth. Bumbaugh estimated that the puppies were between 2 and 3 weeks old, but that there was no definitive way to tell.

After Toms was released from Waynesboro Hospital, for taking hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana seeds and a "whole slew" of prescription pills, she returned home to check on the dogs and saw it had been "ransacked."

Her husband told Public Opinion in May that he had been at the house on March 5, but did not realize conditions were bad. When he arrived on March 9, to retrieve medicines for Joanna Toms' doctors, he said the house had been "destroyed."

Toms was originally found guilty of 27 counts of neglect, and was ordered to pay $377.50 in fines. She was prohibited from owning a dog for six months except for cases of documented medical assistance, and is only allowed to own one dog at a time for five years after that.
Source: Public Opinion Online - Oct 25. 2013
Update posted on Oct 25, 2013 - 2:12AM 
A Waynesboro woman whose 19 Rottweilers were surrendered to Antietam Humane Society in March was found guilty of neglect at a hearing Monday before Magisterial District Judge Larry Pentz.

Joanna Toms, 49, of 199 Tritle Ave. was charged with 27 counts of animal cruelty -- one for each of the live dogs, as well as the bodies of eight puppies that were found in a freezer inside her home, where conditions were described as deplorable.

Can't own dogs
Toms, who was not represented by an attorney, was prohibited by Pentz from owning any dogs for six months, and after that, for a period of five years, she is only permitted to have one dog. She has 30 days to appeal the decision by Pentz in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. She also must pay fines and costs of $377.50.

Toms testified during the nearly two hour summary trial that she has post traumatic stress disorder and after an argument on the phone with her estranged husband, Gary, she took some pills, psychedelic mushrooms and other medications, according to Pentz. Toms testified that she blacked out and doesn't remember anything until several days later. She was taken by ambulance March 9 to Waynesboro Hospital, where she remained until March 13.

Gary Toms said he was bitten by one of the dogs when he went to the home to care for them while Joanna Toms was hospitalized. He made an effort to care for the dogs for two days before calling the humane society to come get them, according to Pentz.

During the case prosecuted by Franklin County Assistant District Steve Smith, there was testimony by Georgia Martin, county dog law enforcement officer, Jeff Bliss, animal cruelty officer for Better Days Animal League in Shippensburg and Dennis Bumbaugh, cruelty officer for AHS, as well as Andrea Haugh, executive director of AHS. Smith withdrew a charge of operating a kennel without a license.

Some of the dogs are still evaluated at Antietam Humane Society and some are up for adoption.

The animal cruelty officers testified the puppies, which Toms said were born last May, were two to three weeks old. Toms said all but one of the puppies was stillborn -- the surviving puppy lived for three days -- and that she placed them in the freezer because she did not have the money to have them cremated.

Theodore Dickinson and his father, Bryan Dickinson, who live across the street from Toms, testified that the house didn't appear to be in that bad of shape, according to Pentz.
Source: The Record Herald - May 7, 2013
Update posted on Jun 6, 2013 - 8:06PM 
A Waynesboro woman whose 19 rottweilers were surrendered to Antietam Humane Society last month pleaded not guilty to 27 counts of cruelty to animals Wednesday.

A summary trial for Joanna Toms, 49, of 199 Tritle Ave. will be scheduled before Magisterial District Judge Larry Pentz.

The dogs -- which ranged in age from 1 to about 12 -- were taken to the shelter on March 11 after Toms reportedly suffered from a medical problem. The humane society had received a number of complaints regarding unsanitary conditions in the home, where most of the dogs were kept. Andrea Haugh, executive director of the humane society, described the conditions as deplorable.

The bodies of eight puppies were also found in a freezer, according to charging documents.

Three of the dogs, Crosby, Gretta and Ethel, are now available for adoption at AHS. The remaining animals were sent to other area shelters.

Humane society cruelty officer Dennis Bumbaugh also charged Toms with one count of a dog license violation for having four dogs without licenses. She was charged with the unlawful operation of a kennel by Franklin County Dog Law Enforcement Officer Georgia Martin.
Source: The Record Herald - April 5, 2013
Update posted on Apr 5, 2013 - 11:01AM 
Gretta and Ethel, two older females among the 19 rottweilers surrendered March 18 to Antietam Humane Society, Waynesboro, are up for adoption.

Joanna Toms, who had cared for the rottweilers, said she suspects that as many as eight may have been euthanized.

The humane society would not provide information about the status of the other 17 dogs that came from her Waynesboro home.

Toms has been charged with 27 counts of cruelty to animals. She says her estranged husband, Gary Allen Toms Jr., had no right to surrender the dogs.

While she was in the hospital, her husband told authorities he did not feel comfortable caring for them, according to investigators.

"They are selling property which they illegally obtained," Joanna Toms said. "The dogs were supposed to be held as evidence. They haven't even given me a chance for a trial. They're selling my dogs, even my service dogs. The dogs are owned by a separate entity, and they're being sold. I had security safeguards against my husband. I had these dogs co-owned."

Antietam has not been notified by an attorney questioning its ownership of the animals, according to Executive Director Andrea Haugh.

"We are still proceeding as the legal owners of the animals," Haugh said.

Franklin County Humane Society Police Officer Dennis Bumbaugh said that Pennsylvania law is clear: Once animals come onto a person's property and the person begins to take care of them, the animals legally belong to that person. The rottweilers belonged to Joanna Toms and her husband, even though they may have come from other animal shelters.

Bumbaugh investigated on behalf of the humane society.

"I had a meeting with the district attorney once, before this (surrender) took place," Bumbaugh said. "Her husband was legally able to sign those dogs over. We're just going to wait and let the court decide what needs to be done."

According to court documents, Joanna Toms had yet to plead as of Friday to charges of cruelty to animals, failing to get licenses for four dogs and operating a kennel without a license.

Joanna Toms ran Rott Stop Rehab at 199 Tritle Ave., Waynesboro.

"I'm getting death threats from across the country from the puppy mills I closed," she said.

Haugh has said the situation was almost "a hoarder situation" or animal rescue "gone wrong."

Joanna Toms provided Public Opinion with answers to the charges:
- She said her husband should be charged with cruelty because he failed to care for the 19 dogs and five cats while she was in the hospital for two days.
- She provided receipts showing that she purchased four Pennsylvania dog licenses on March 1.
- She said she had too few dogs to be required to have a kennel license.

Dog Law officer Georgia Martin counted the 19 rottweilers plus eight puppies in a freezer for a total of 27 animals. A person needs a state kennel license if he or she keeps 26 or more dogs during a calendar year.

Joanna Toms said that the eight puppies in the freezer had died at birth in May 2010. She said she did not have the money to cremate them and she could not bring herself to put them out in the trash or to bury them in the yard where her other dogs might find them.

The other six puppies from the litter survived, she said.

"I have another dog in the freezer because I don't have $200 for cremation," she said.

"That's news to me," Bumbaugh said. "We did not remove the other dog."

The Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter, Chambersburg, is caring for three females - Delilah, 3; Mercy, 4; and Reba, 6. They are not ready for adoption.

"We are still working with them, trying to give them as much time as they need," Cumberland Valley spokeswoman Jennifer Vanderau said. "It's a slow process getting acclimated to the shelter."

Better Days Animal League, Shippensburg, is caring for two of the rottweilers who are "doing fine," according to Bumbaugh. "We had some issues with aggression."

Antietam charges a dog owner reclaiming a pet $20 a day for its care of the animal, Haugh said.

If Joanna Toms were successful in winning the dogs back, her tab would be thousands of dollars.

A person adopting an older dog from Antietam must pay an $80 fee to the shelter.
Source: Public Opinion - April 1, 2013
Update posted on Mar 31, 2013 - 8:50PM 
A Waynesboro woman who "absolutely loves rottweilers" has been charged with operating a kennel without a license and 27 counts of animal cruelty.

Joanna Toms, 49, of 199 Tritle Ave. was charged Monday, a week after her husband surrendered 19 rottweilers to the Antietam Humane Society, Waynesboro.

Counting eight puppies found in a freezer, her Rott Stop Rehab was required to have a kennel license. A kennel in Pennsylvania can keep up to 25 dogs a year without license.

"Reliable witnesses" at the property in downtown Waynesboro this year saw 27 dogs - including 18 adults, one recently lactating female and the eight puppies in a freezer, according to a citation filed Monday by Pennsylvania Dog Law Enforcement Officer Georgia Martin. Four dogs also did not have dog licenses for 2013.

Franklin County Humane Society Police Officer Dennis Bumbaugh filed the cruelty charges. "Reliable witnesses" saw that Toms neglected to provide clean and sanitary shelter for the dogs, according to the citations.

Toms, whose Facebook moniker is "rottaholic," ran a rehabilitation shelter.

"I have a great passion working with these most unfortunate Rottweilers and helping them recover from the horrible abuse they have endured at the hand of an abuser," she said on her website http://www.rottstop.com. "I have personally witnessed nothing short of miraculous recovery of the Rottweiler, both psychologically and physically, after coming from such horribly abusive situations."

Toms' husband surrendered the 19 dogs after she suffered a medical issue, according to Andrea Haugh, executive director of Antietam Humane Society. He was not comfortable caring for them. Thirteen dogs were in the house, and six were in the yard.

Toms said that her estranged husband had no legal right to give up the dogs because they belonged to others, according to her post on Facebook under Public Opinion's story about the surrender of the dogs.

"For the record. I do follow law and am legally allowed to have up to 25 dogs in one calendar year," she said in the post. "I have followed all the boro laws."

She said that four complaints in 2013 were cleared on March 8 when an animal control officer found nothing wrong.

The 19 rottweilers have been distributed to area shelters, according to Haugh.

"They are well fed, happy and clean," Haugh said. "We are temperament-testing them."

A man and two animal shelters have contacted the Antietam shelter to see if Antietam had their dogs, Haugh said. The man found one of the two dogs he was looking for.

"The impression I had from a conversation with him was that Joanna purchased the dogs from him for breeding," she said. "We haven't been able to confirm whether they were there otherwise."

She said she has no problem dealing with legitimate animal rescues if a dog's identity can be verified through an identifying microchip or tattoo. "We wouldn't want to send an animal back into the same situation it came from," Haugh said.

According to Martin, Toms had asked for a copy of kennel regulations and was given a copy on Nov. 27, 2006. Martin also gave Toms a warning on Dec. 8, 2008.

Conditions at the Toms home were "deplorable" with feces everywhere, according to Haugh. One emaciated dog was placed under a veterinarian's care.

Waynesboro Building Code Enforcement Officer Danny Sheffler said authorities hadn't called him to inspect the home when the dogs were surrendered.
Source: Public Opinion - March 19, 2013
Update posted on Mar 31, 2013 - 7:33PM 

References

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