November 16, 2012 | Back to: News

Still no decision as to legal standing in animals neglect case

A Nevada County Superior Court judge on Thursday postponed a decision on whether Sammie’s Friends animal shelter has legal standing in a misdemeanor animal cruelty case.

In March 2011, the county’s Animal Control Department removed more than a dozen animals from Louis Silva’s Patino Road property, west of Penn Valley, after a report of a dead llama. Officers said they found a number of animals in poor condition with no food or water; one llama was euthanized the following day.

Silva went to trial on three felony counts and two misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty; jurors found Silva guilty of the two misdemeanors but were split on the felony charges.

Sammie’s Friends, the nonprofit group that runs the county’s animal shelter, has been caring for Silva’s animals for the last 15 months. The group had objected to any of the animals being released back to Silva, and in June, Sammie’s Friends filed a motion objecting to any proposed order to return the animals, alleging that the group has spent nearly $4,000 to care for them. The motion alleged that Silva had surrendered two severely neglected cattle in 2010 and that the animals seized in 2011 were in “extremely poor condition.” Silva allegedly had failed to post the costs of care and has not provided any funds for the animals’ care.

In another motion filed July 19, Sammie’s Friends attorney Jill Telfer wrote that “if death is not a consequence of Silva’s neglect, his neglect in all likelihood will result with unnecessary and unjustifiable physical pain and suffering. Many of these animals ultimately may need to be returned to Sammie’s Friends.”

Silva’s attorney, Stephen Munkelt, filed an objection on the basis that Sammie’s Friends could not be an interested party to the case.

Judge R.M. Smith ruled it had the legal authority to be a party in the case. But after Munkelt filed an appeal that was upheld by the appellate court, Smith said he likely will reverse his ruling.

During a hearing Thursday, Telfer presented her objections, calling Silva a “serial neglecter.”

Telfer argued that the Third District Court of Appeals was ruling on a much broader issue of standing that did not apply to the Silva case and that Smith’s earlier ruling applied only to two issues: whether Silva was entitled to have his animals returned and the amount of restitution due Sammie’s Friends. She said that Sammie’s Friends is only asking for standing post-conviction.

Telfer also argued that because Silva has been convicted, for him to own any animals is a violation of law, charging that he has had a dozen animals in his care die within the last four years. A request to order the seizure of his animals was rebuffed by Smith, who noted that was a law enforcement matter.

Munkelt chose not to present further arguments in court Thursday, noting only that this was a “colorful example of the harm that can come” from allowing a third party to have legal standing.

Smith said he would take the matter under submission and said he would render a decision no later than Nov. 30.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email or call (530) 477-4229.

Liz Kellar

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The Union Updated Nov 16, 2012 07:31AM Published Nov 18, 2012 11:40AM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.