published Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

New judge appointed to pet case

A new judge has been appointed to hear the City Court case between the Pet Company at Hamilton Place and Chattanooga’s animal control services.

Senior Judge Donald P. Harris, of Franklin, Tenn., will replace City Judge Sherry Paty, who declared a mistrial and recused herself from the case last week. She said an e-mail that came to her from Mayor Ron Littlefield could taint perceptions of her ruling.

No court date has been set for the case to come before the new judge.

Karen Walsh, executive director of McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center, which handles the city’s animal control, said the case will go back to “ground zero.”

Harris’ appointment was made by the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. Laura Click, spokeswoman with the office, said senior judges are always the first asked to fill in on cases in which judges have recused themselves.

“We always look to our senior judges for this particular purpose,” Click said.

Harris will be hearing the case from its June 15 beginning, when McKamey and city workers raided the store and accused it of 90 animal cruelty violations, including nonworking air conditioning, filthy cages and inadequate watering of dogs that led to dehydration.

Before recusing herself, Paty ruled that the Pet Company could get its animals back and resume selling them if the state Department of Agriculture allowed the store to keep its operating license.

Paty declared a mistrial July 26, citing the mayor’s July 1 e-mail, which urged Paty to not “leave McKamey holding the bag” for expenses related to the case.

McKamey officials say expenses to keep the seized animals and treat some that were ill surpass $40,000.

Paty called the mayor’s e-mail “improper” and “unethical.”

Littlefield said he has no regrets sending the e-mail and doesn’t think he did anything wrong by doing so.

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