A Nevada County Superior Court judge has been asked to rule on an unusual motion that would force an alleged dog hoarder to relinquish six animals — even though his case is currently wending its way through the court system.
Gary Dean Perkins, 53, had been arrested in November on felony animal cruelty charges after Nevada County Sheriff’s Animal Control officers seized 31 dogs from a parcel in the 16000 block of Bear Trap Springs Road, where Perkins reportedly was squatting.
The dogs ranged in age from 6 weeks old to adult and reportedly were emaciated, with no food or water found. Deputies reportedly also found five dead dogs on the parcel, and necropsies revealed death by starvation. One dog was pregnant, driving the total number of live dogs involved in the case to 41.
All but six of the dogs seized have been adopted, according to Cheryl Wicks at Sammie’s Friends animal shelter.
The remaining animals cannot be rehomed until the court sorts out the case against Perkins, who reportedly has asked to get those dogs back.
Sammie’s Friends has been caring for those six dogs since Nov. 23, at a cost of $12 a day each.
And that’s not counting the cost of food as well as the medical care they needed, Wicks said.
Of the 17 adult dogs seized, 10 had heartworm — and all the dogs needed vaccines, spay and neuter services, and other medications.
Wicks estimated the total cost of treatment to be in excess of $8,000.
In court March 13, Judge Candace Heidelberger addressed the motion filed by Deputy District Attorney Jim Phillips to confirm the allegation charging animal cruelty and to request an order relinquishing ownership of the dogs, and impose the costs of care.
Phillips said a fairly new section of the California penal code affords a mechanism by which the government can seek seizure and forfeiture of dogs and cats under some circumstances, based on an unacceptable level of care.
Deputy Public Defender Micah Pierce argued that his client should be allowed to retain ownership of the dogs, pending any legal order — which he said could not exist without a conviction.
Heidelberger, however, said she was unsure if there had to be a prior conviction or whether there could be another basis for forfeiture.
“Sammie’s Friends has a lien on animals that exists even if he is acquitted, in excess of $8,000,” Phillips said. “That must be paid before the animals can be turned over to the defendant. If he is indigent, how on earth is he ever going to be able to pay for these animals, much less care for them?”
In the end, Heidelberger said there was a right by the court to order the forfeiture without a criminal conviction.
She set a new hearing date for that motion, as well as a preliminary hearing into the evidence, for April 10.
Pierce advised the court he would be filing a motion to dismiss the charges as overbroad, saying, “There was no intentional abuse. He ran out of money to feed them.”
That motion was set to be heard April 3.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.