SIDNEY – The Shelby County Animal Shelter plans — within the next two weeks — to announce adoption information for 17 French bulldogs that have been in custody of the shelter since March 2019.
On Friday, Judge Mark O’Connor ordered the dogs to be forfeited to the shelter and their former owner, Grazyna Latocha, 69, to begin serving her sentence on charges of cruelty against companion animals and deprivation of necessary veterinary medical sustenance. Latocha was booked into the Shelby County Jail Friday morning.
“We’re extremely happy that it’s coming to an end,” said Jim Frye, the chief deputy of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, “not for us but for those poor animals.”
The charges against Latocha stemmed from a March 26, 2019, fire at 223 N. Walnut Ave. in Sidney. Firefighters discovered 18 French bulldogs in the basement of the house even though Latocha said there were no animals in the residence. Seventeen of the dogs survived and have been in custody of the Shelby County Animal Shelter since then.
Latocha was convicted of cruelty against companion animals and deprivation of necessary veterinary medical sustenance on Aug. 30, 2019, following a two-day jury trial in Sidney Municipal Court. On Oct. 22, O’Connor sentenced her to 90 days in jail, with 60 days suspended, and three years of probation. She was ordered to have no breeding or companion animals while on probation.
She also was fined $750, with $500 suspended, and ordered to pay $250 plus court costs. Additionally, she was ordered to pay $17,000 in restitution for the dogs’ care, paying at least $500 a month.
Latocha appealed her conviction to the Third District Court of Appeals in Lima, but on April 27 the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Sidney Municipal Court.
Jeff Amick, the law director and prosecutor for Sidney, said Latocha filed what would be a notice of appeal in response to the Third District Court of Appeals’ ruling. However, she didn’t follow appropriate procedures with the court, and thus O’Connor was able to impose the sentence.
Now that the Shelby County Animal Shelter has legal ownership of the French bulldogs, officials are deciding what process they’ll use to make the dogs available for adoption.
“We’re just glad that the process has come to an end and look forward to getting onto the next process and get the animals out to their new homes,” Frye said.
All of the dogs have been spayed or neutered, Frye said. They also had their nasal cavities surgically reopened to help them breathe, he said.
“We’re just glad to be able to do that and get them healthy and adopt them out,” the chief deputy said.
When they were taken into custody, six of the 12 adult dogs had significant ailments, veterinarian Dr. Amanda Wagner reported. One ultimately had an eye removed.
But all of the dogs are doing well now, Frye said.
“We’ll be glad just to get them out of there and let them run in some grass and let them lay on a blanket on somebody’s lap,” he said.