Since 1972, the lawyers at Caroselli Beachler & Coleman, LLC have carried on the firm’s mission to fight for and protect the legal rights of ordinary working people, consumers and their families. Now, Caroselli Beachler & Coleman has stepped into the ring to fight for and protect the rights of innocent abused animals. In a recent case decided by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, Attorneys David A. McGowan and Susan A. Meredith represented All But Furgotten, Inc., a non-profit humane society dedicated to the prevention of cruelty and suffering of all animals.
On March 16, 2018, ninety-nine animals were seized from a home in Westmoreland County. The animals, which included 30 dogs, 67 cats, one turtle and a white tailed deer, were living in deplorable, unsanitary conditions, in a home replete with trash, urine and feces. Many of the animals were underweight and had various respiratory and skin issues. The Costs of Care of Seized Animals Act is a little known civil statute that seeks to ensure that when abused animals are removed from their owner, the animals do not linger in a state of legal limbo while criminal charges are pending against their owner. Generally, animals that are removed from an abusive home are placed with a county humane society or other non-profit animal shelter which bears the burden of paying for veterinarian care, food, and shelter for the animals. The statute allows for a civil hearing to be held shortly after an animal is seized to determine if the animal’s owner should pay for veterinarian costs and sheltering costs. Following such a hearing, if the court determines certain factors are met, the court can order the owner to pay the veterinarian and sheltering costs. If the owner does not pay such costs within 7 days, then the owner forfeits ownership of the animals and they can be placed by the shelter with new loving and caring owners. This not only limits the time an animal must spend in a shelter, but it limits the costs a non-profit shelter must expend to care for the seized animal.
All But Furgotten cared for ninety some dogs and cats seized on March 16, 2018. With the help of Westmoreland County attorney Anthony L. Rosner, Jr., All But Furgotten filed a petition pursuant to the Costs of Care of Seized Animals Act to recover the costs it had incurring caring for the seized animals. Following a hearing, the Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas Judge ordered the owners of the animals to pay All But Furgotten a sum of $261,191.57, for medical care, food, water and shelter. The owners of the animals sought to delay their obligation to pay this sum and filed an appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. In addition to filing the appeal, the owners also obtained a court order from the trial judge which placed a hold on All But Furgotten’s right to adopt the animals out to new and loving homes, pending the outcome of the appeal.
Caroselli Beachler then stepped in to help. Attorneys David A. McGowan and Susan A. Meredith and their team that included Litigation Paralegal Stefan J. Heidinger, and Legal Assistant Anita DeAngelis took up All But Furgotten’s cause. Through various filings, Attorneys McGowan and Meredith stressed to the Court the importance of moving the case ahead because a prompt resolution of the case was in the best interest of the animals. Attorney Meredith, who wrote all of the Superior Court filings and argued the case before the Court, requested the court hear the case as early as possible and issue a decision as quickly as possible. On August 23, 2019, the Superior Court upheld the trial court’s cost order and rejected the owners of the animals’ arguments challenging the order. (See All But Furgotten Inc. v. Klochak, 2019 Pa. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 3224 (Pa. Super. 2019)). The Court also overturned the trial court’s stay order. This permitted the adoption of the animals into permanent loving homes.
The Superior Court’s decision was a big victory for the seized animals, who had been waiting in limbo. It started with All But Furgotten’s dedicated Humane Society Police Officers and other volunteers who responded to the neighbors’ calls about the plight of the animals, and obtained a warrant to enter the property and rescue the animals from extremely cruel living conditions. The long delay caused by the owners’ appeal was stressful on the animals but all the dogs and cats are now available for adoption and anyone who is interested in rescuing and adopting an animal should contact All But Furgotten at (724) 382-7178. All But Furgotten is a non-profit organization which relies primarily on donations and help from volunteers. If you would like to donate or volunteer to help All But Furgotten continue its mission of rescuing, caring and finding permanent loving and safe homes for neglected and unwanted animals you can do so here.
By: David A McGowan