Pet Company animal cruelty case dismissed

Pet Company animal cruelty case dismissed

October 5th, 2010 by Joan Garrett McClane in News

An animal cruelty case against a local pet store, which was being tried for the second time in city court because the first judge recused herself and declared the case a mistrial, was dismissed by a senior judge Monday.

City attorneys said the ruling means that McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center will not recover the $40,000 spent caring for the 84 animals taken from the Pet Company this summer.

"If this ruling stands, no action will be taken against the Pet Company," said Krystal Freiberg, an assistant city attorney. "We haven't decided if there will be anything else done."

The animals, which were taken to McKamey because a Tennessee Department of Agriculture inspector found them without water and rolling around in their own feces in extreme heat, were sent back to the Pet Company last week, said Paula Hurn, operations director at McKamey. The animals were taken to a veterinarian and not the store, officials said.

In a ruling, Senior Judge Donald Harris said the retrial of the Pet Company's case violated laws against double jeopardy because the pet store never consented to the mistrial.

"It appears the City Judge [Sherry Paty] without forewarning the parties as to her intent, entered the courtroom, read her prepared order and then left," the ruling read. "Under these circumstances, this court cannot find the Pet Company had an opportunity to object prior to the declaration of a mistrial and recusal of the city judge."

The city's case against the Pet Company, a pet store in Hamilton Place mall, was set for retrial after Paty said she couldn't try the case because Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield had sent her an e-mail attempting to sway her.

Paty called the communication "an improper, unethical and perhaps contemptible disregard for the separation of powers."

Littlefield has said he thinks the city has been slow in dealing with the Pet Company, and he wants the store out of business for good.

"This order doesn't contradict McKamey's findings, and certainly Judge Paty recognized the condition of the store," said Mark Litchford, an attorney representing the city. "She said the conditions of the store necessitated the animals' removal."

Contact Joan Garrett at jgarrett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6601.