From the Hagerstown, MD News 25 channel, as reported on the MSNBC website:
POLICE MADE THE GRUESOME DISCOVERY while responding to what they thought was a domestic violence call. Police said they got several calls Wednesday morning from neighbors complaining about a lot of commotion around a neighborhood house. Harry Christian, a neighbor said the woman in the house broke the glass out of this window and called out to her, "Please help me, my husband is holding me hostage." When the police got there, they discovered several dogs and a smell that was intolerable. The dogs were apparently locked in the house for several months, and there were dog feces throughout the house. "We tried to go inside, but we couldn't breath. The feces was 2 feet deep, we had to call the fire dept to bring us breathing apparatus," said Berkeley County Animal Control Official Jason Ahalt.
It was a gut wrenching sight to see some 20 petrified dogs and puppies are pulled from the townhouse. Ahalt commented, "Once arriving State Police advised us there were at least 12 dogs in the house, some were vicious and we had to contain the dogs so they could get upstairs to the lady." But before any officers could get in the house to help the woman, they needed help themselves by wearing cloth breathe masks. Police were then able to get to the woman. Trooper Burnett of the West Virginia State Police said, "I don't think she was locked in there, but she had a gun in her hands at the time." The woman was then taken to city hospital leaving many to ask how anyone could have lived in a house like that. Jim Barnhart of the Health Department spoke of the house; "It's an absolute wreck. The floor is torn up; the furniture is all broken its really bad. And I never seen dog feces this bad before."
While neighbors were shocked at the number of dogs pulled from the house, they thought there were maybe four or five they had seen the owners walking from time to time, but the stench was extremely overpowering. Christian said, "We've called to complain about it because the stink was just terrible."
The owner of the dogs, Frank Snodgrass, is facing 29 animal cruelty charges. The dogs and puppies, which are all Russian Wolfhounds, have been turned over to the Berkeley County Animal Warden. He is hoping they will all be adopted.
An Update the following day:
Twenty-three of the dogs that were found Wednesday have been brought to the Animal Control Shelter. However their facility is not equipped to take care of the dogs. Several of the dogs are mal-nourished as well as covered in their own feces. Jason Ahalt from Animal Control explained, "We're equipped with 6 runs that aren't set up properly to house dogs. We have to wash the feces back over the top of the dogs, it's just not proper."
One puppy has died since the dogs were discovered and two are still on the loose. Animal control said disease is a concern. "There's a high chance of them getting Parvo, kennel cough or disease from the kennel because so many dogs come in and out of here," said Ahalt.
Dog owner, Frank Snodgrass, appeared in Magistrate Court for his arraignment. Snodgrass was charged with one count of animal cruelty. Snodgrass' wife has yet to give her consent to release the dogs to animal control and the humane society.
In the meantime, "A rescue shelter is going to take all these animals to a proper facility," said Ahalt. "They can clean, bath them, give them their shots, and provide them proper vet attention."
The fate of the dogs will wait on the court's decision.
Dog owner faces more charges
MARTINSBURG, WV MAY 23 - The Berkeley County man who owns 29 dogs that were found living in deplorable conditions was back in Magistrate Court Tuesday facing more animal cruelty charges.
Nearly a week ago, the Russian wolfhounds were discovered in Frank Snodgrass' Falling Waters home. Since then, the house has been condemned, and the dogs have been placed in rescue missions for adoption.
Snodgrass is charged with six counts of animal cruelty and his bond has been raised to $30,000. If found guilty on all charges, Snodgrass could face up to six years in jail.
Friday, May 19, 2000
Mistreated Russian wolfhounds rescued
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - More than two dozen Russian wolfhounds rescued from the squalor of a Berkeley County home have dog-lovers from three states hoping to adopt them, or at least help in their recovery.
Tracy Cooper, an animal control officer, said she had more than 21 calls in just one hour Thursday.
Frank M. Snodgrass, 48, has been charged with animal cruelty. He was released Thursday after posting $5,000 bond.
Animal control officer Jason Ahalt was summoned to the Snodgrass house Wednesday after State Police found at least a dozen mangy, timid dogs living in feces piled as high as 3 feet.
"It was the craziest thing I ever saw in my life," he said.
A chain-link fence in the kitchen created a kennel for another nine dogs, again living in deep piles of feces.
The stench was so bad State Police asked a local fire company to provide air packs, Ahalt said.
A total of 29 wolfhounds were found in the house, including a female and four puppies, one of which has since died.
Some of the dogs were so thin their collars slipped off their necks; two ran away and have not been caught.
The dogs are also known as Borzoi, and members of the National Borzoi Foundation from Pennsylvania and Virginia arrived in Martinsburg late Thursday to help clean and care for them.
...the unfortunate acquittal
Accused dog abuser freed
Legal grounds forced a judge to acquit the man accused last May of keeping 29 Russian wolfhounds in his home
By CANDICE L. BOSELY Journal Staff Writer
MARTINSBURG - Although a circuit court judge agreed the living conditions of 29 Russian wolfhounds found cooped amid their own feces last year were abominable, he acquitted the accused animal abuser because the state failed to prove he lived at the house.
Frank Snodgrass, 49, was charged with six misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty after state troopers and animal control officers found the dogs inside a Spring Mills townhome filled with feces, overturned trash and urine-soaked flooring.
Snodgrass was sentenced in magistrate court last October to serve three years in jail, the maximum sentence possible. His attorney, James Campbell, of Leesburg, Va., immediately appealed the sentence to circuit court.
Tuesday afternoon, assistant prosecutor Greg Jones presented the state's case. He had two of Snodgrass's neighbors lined up to testify, but had told the defense that they might testify late last week. Judge David Sanders would not let the neighbors testify, saying that the defense was not given enough time to prepare a possible rebuttal.
Jones said his case would have been stronger had those neighbors been allowed to testify. Outside the courtroom, they maintained that Snodgrass did live at the house.
The dogs were seized in the early morning hours of May 17, 2000, from 132 Morningside Drive in Falling Waters. They were then turned over to rescuers who specialize in the Russian wolfhound, or borzoi, breed.
Some of those rescuers were displeased with the outcome of the case.
"I would very much like to see him punished somehow," said Pennsylvania resident T.C. Carroll, who temporarily fostered a mother dog and her three puppies - which were estimated at 2 or 3 weeks old. Carroll's wife, Leslie, drove to Martinsburg to pick up the dogs.
"We love these dogs. And when I say we, we're speaking for a lot of people," Carroll said.
Carolyn Backers, director of the National Borzoi Rescue Foundation, oversaw the efforts to rehabilitate and find homes for the dogs.
"There was no justice for these dogs," Backers said from her home in Alden, Mich.
All of the dogs have since been adopted, she said. Two of the dogs, who escaped from animal control officers as they took them out of the townhouse, were adopted by a local couple.
During a gathering of borzoi owners in New York state recently, some of the rescued dogs saw each other for the first time since they were seized, Backers said. After a few moments, they recognized each other, Bowers said.
"They didn't really want to leave each other," Backers said. "It didn't really seem to trigger any bad memories."
She said all of the dogs initially seemed scared of men and terrified of belts, leading her to believe they had been physically abused sometime during their life.
They have improved greatly since, she said.
"I'm very pleased and I'm really proud," she said. "It's taken a lot of love and dedication."
The windows on the inside of the townhouse were sealed with plastic and duct tape, Berkeley County Animal Control officer Jason Ahalt said Tuesday. And the woman inside, Snodgrass's wife, had a two-filter air mask on when officers found her, he said.
The dogs seemed underweight and dehydrated, Ahalt said. He said some of the canines could not stand.
Snodgrass, dressed in gray slacks and a blue blazer, opted not to comment after the trial. His attorney spoke on his behalf.
"I'm pleased that Frank can go on with his life," Campbell said, adding later, "He's pleased that this is behind him and wants everyone to know that he never intended anybody harm, including those dogs."
Prosecutor Jones applauded the efforts of state troopers and animal control officers, but said he should have anticipated Campbell's argument that Snodgrass did not live in the home.
"This really rests on my shoulders," he said. "I love dogs and I'm disappointed that we couldn't get a conviction."
Judge Sanders said that he had to grant Campbell's motion to acquit.
"We don't have a choice," Sanders said.
Sanders said 24 photographs of the townhome's interior were "horrific," but said that personal feelings cannot prevent him from ruling on points of law.
In his motion to acquit, Campbell implied that Snodgrass may have been visiting his estranged wife. The dogs were discovered after she broke an upstairs window and yelled for help. She had a loaded .22 gun, which she turned over to officers.
"Any absentee owners might have no idea that an animal is being mistreated," Campbell told the judge. The hearing was a bench trial, meaning no jury was called.
"You don't have a single, solitary witness saying he lived there," Campbell said. Snodgrass arrived at the house a few hours after police officers arrived, after his shift at the Charles Town Races ended, Trooper E.D. Burnette testified.
Burnette said that he found men's suits wrapped in garbage bags in the townhome's basement bathroom, the only clean room in the house. He could not prove those clothes belonged to Frank Snodgrass, and Judge Sanders said he could not make that assumption.
At his arraignment, held the day after the dogs were found, Snodgrass posted bond on a $5,000 bail. He served no jail time.
Snodgrass cannot be tried for the charges again, because such a retrial would constitute double jeopardy.