SIDNEY – A Sidney woman who was convicted of cruelty against companion animals and deprivation of necessary veterinary medical sustenance had her sentence stayed Tuesday morning pending appeal.
Grazyna Latocha, 68, 223 N. Walnut Ave., immediately appealed her sentence Tuesday morning after she was ordered to serve 30 days in jail, pay $17,000 in restitution and forfeit her 17 French bulldogs, which were seized following an accidental fire in her home on March 26.
“I am filing an appeal because I’m not guilty of the charges that were filed against me,” said Latocha, who was found guilty by a jury on Aug. 30.
Firefighters responded to Latocha’s house on March 26 and rescued 18 French bulldogs from the basement even though Latocha said there were no pets in the residence. One of the dogs died after being removed from the house while the other 17 remain in custody of the Shelby County Animal Shelter.
Firefighters found the dogs kept in cages stacked on top of one another in about 4 feet of water in the basement, Shelby County Chief Deputy Jim Frye said in April. The dogs were kept in cages without plastic trays on the bottom.
Some of the dogs had callouses on their paws pads from the cages wires, Frye said. He said urine and feces were running down the cages. No feces were found outside in the yard, he said.
Two dogs were found to have eye issues. One of the dogs needed to have an eye removed, Frye said, and two other dogs were found to have vaginal prolapse.
Authorities also found an advertisement on a website selling a litter of newly born (less than five days old) puppies on March 22, Frye said. Firefighters told deputies they saw a plastic baby pool floating in the 4 feet of water in the basement, which was a suspected spot for the newborn puppies. The puppies would not have been able to swim yet, he said.
“There was clear evidence of animal abuse in this case,” Prosecutor Jeff Amick said during Tuesday’s sentencing. “There was also clear evidence of disregard for the welfare of these animals on the part of Ms. Latocha. This court needs to send a clear message that such abuse will not be tolerated in this county or anywhere.”
Robert Long, from the Law Office of the Shelby County Public Defender, requested no jail time for Latocha. He also requested his client not be required to forfeit her dogs or pay reimbursement to the county for their care.
Amick requested that Latocha serve two consecutive 90-day sentences, although he said he wouldn’t object to early release following 90 days depending on her conduct while incarcerated.
The prosecutor also requested Latocha be prohibited from owning, possessing, caring for, living with or having prolonged contact with any companion animals for five years.
Amick said Latocha should pay $1,500 in fines plus court costs. He also said she should reimburse the Shelby County Animal Shelter for care of her dogs, which was more than $35,755 as of Sept. 30.
Amick said he hasn’t heard Latocha express any remorse, acceptance of responsibility or concern for the animals.
“They weren’t her pets, and she had no regard for them as living creatures other than what they could produce for her in terms of her bank account,” he said.
Amick said the dogs could not return to Latocha’s home because it has been declared unfit for habitation by the city of Sidney and the Sidney-Shelby County Health Department. The house has no electricity, water or roof, he said.
“In terms of the return of these animals, it’s an impossibility,” Amick said. “These animals can’t be allowed to go back into that same deplorable condition.”
Visiting Judge Mark O’Connor questioned Latocha about her living conditions and her finances.
Latocha said she owns another property in Spring Hill, Florida, and her son could take the dogs there. Latocha’s son, Andrew Latocha IV, 28, resided with her in Sidney at the time of the fire.
Latocha said she and her son are working to repair their Sidney home, which was not insured. The roof is almost complete, and electric work is approximately halfway done, she said.
Latocha said her finances aren’t good, which necessitated her having a public defender, and she is self-employed. Her son does have a job.
Amick said the dogs are thriving in foster care. Even if an appeal was filed, they still should be forfeited and immediately placed in permanent homes, he said.
“We need to place these dogs in permanent homes of their own for their own well-being and also to terminate the ongoing expenses of the cost of maintenance of these poor animals to Shelby County,” he said, accusing Latocha of denying the dogs basic veterinary care that led to suffering.
O’Connor ordered Latocha to serve 30 days in jail on each count, to be served concurrently. He suspended 60 days of a sentence for each count.
The judge also ordered Latocha to serve three years probation and have no breeding or companion animals while on probation. The 17 French bulldogs were ordered to be forfeited to the Shelby County Animal Shelter.
O’Connor fined Latocha $750 with $500 suspended, ordering her to pay $250 plus court costs. He also ordered her to pay $17,000 in restitution for her dogs’ care, paying at least $500 a month.
However, Latocha’s entire sentence was stayed as her attorneys immediately filed an appeal. Latocha was released on her own recognizance but ordered not to leave Ohio. Her dogs will remain in care of the Shelby County Animal Shelter while her appeal is processed.
Reach the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-538-4824. Sheryl Roadcap contributed to this report.