Flagler County Judge Andrea Totten today ordered the permanent confiscation of six dogs from a Bunnell resident and will consider banning the resident from ever owning dogs again after eight dogs had to be removed from her property in April for being severely neglected, malnourished, sick, and showing signs of old and new injuries.
“I do find that Charles Hall has failed to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that she is able and fit to have custody of and adequately care for the animals,” Totten said, announcing her ruling just before noon.
One of the eight, Mama, has since died, but not necessarily from the neglect, a veterinarian said. Another, Red, did not belong to Hall, who said she had no claim on him.
Charles Lashay Hall, 38, who has owned the property at 503 East Booe Street with her cousin since 2004, was declared unable and unfit to adequately provide for the animals. Her cousin was named as a defendant in the court petition. But the cousin does not live at the property nor does she have a close relationship with Hall. No action was taken against her. She nevertheless testified that had she had a relationship with Hall, she might have helped care for the dogs.
Hall said she had no choice but to take responsibility for much of the conditions in which they were found, but she said the situation was out of her control: She was in jail in Santa Rosa County for 40 days at the time the dogs were seized. It was never made clear how the dogs were cared for in her absence, if at all, or by whom. “I tried to make the best decision,” Hall said. “And apparently it wasn’t the best decision. But I’m here, I’m out here right now, willing to take responsibility for my dogs,” she told the judge this morning, toward the end of a two-hour hearing.
“I believe we’ve heard from multiple doctors that this isn’t just a 40-day issue,” John Cary, the attorney representing Bunnell, told the judge in his summation, after three veterinary physicians who had either cared for the dogs or conducted a necropsy, in one case, had testified. “This is a long term problem for the animals where they’ve been mistreated malnourished and neglected.
The judge acknowledged that Hall had been incarcerated and had limited means to care for the dogs at the time, but didn’t buy the excuse that there were no means and accepted Cary’s argument. “It was her responsibility to arrange for adequate care for the dogs, that’s what you would expect the dog owner to do,” Totten said, citing law and speaking with deliberate precision. “A reasonable person, if they didn’t have anyone else to care for the dogs, would have reached out to the Humane Society, based on Ms. Hall’s testimony she clearly had a some sort of relationship with the Humane Society, was with familiar, said that she’d surrendered dogs there before, obviously knew that that was an agency that you could turn to for help if you’re unable to care for your animals. But she chose not to avail herself of that opportunity, and instead the dogs languished in extremely poor conditions for the entire time Ms. Hall was in jail.”
Hall does not face criminal charges. It was a civil case brought by the City of Bunnell. The city and Flagler Humane Society were seeking to prevent Hall from reclaiming the dogs or ever owning dogs again and are hoping to recover thousands of dollars in veterinary and boarding bills, though Bunnell government has agreed to pay the lion’s share of those (just under $9,000), while still expecting reimbursement.
Wade Vose, the Bunnell City Commission’s attorney, told commissioners at their last meeting that there may be a lien on Hall’s property.
Since the eight dogs were seized, they have run up $5,935.76 in veterinary care and $9,150 in boarding costs as of last week. Some additional costs may have been run up by today’s hearing. Charles Hall is expected to pay the bills, but she said other than some form of payment plan, she doesn’t have the money. Totten said she will consider the reasonableness of the costs in a subsequent hearing.
Hall, representing herself in this morning’s hearing, said she did what she could from jail to ensure that the dogs were provided for, but disagreed with assessments by veterinarians that the dogs had been neglected other than the time when she was in jail. Santa Rosa County jail records show Hall was booked there from March 9 through April 14 this year, on a probation violation.
Kimberly Niessen, a veterinary physician at Flagler Animal Hospital, attributed several conditions to neglect of longer date than just 40 days. “Those are conditions that take a long time to manifest themselves,” Niessen said.
It started on April 5. Bunnell Animal Control got a call that two chained dogs at 503 East Booe Street were fighting. The Humane Society’s Amy Carotenuto and a Bunnell police officer went to the property that day, and the next were also joined by Dawn Morton, an animal control officer.
“Two of the dogs had no shelter, none of the dogs had a clean environment to lay down in,” Carotenuto testified. One dog’s face was infected, his ears were infected, had “lots of swelling,” evidence of fighting. “The dog named red had no shelter whatsoever, and the dog named Spike had no shelter whatsoever.” Mama was thin, chained, had no water. Her chain was kinked and thick with grime around her neck, “quite tight, and she had tangled it up such that she couldn’t get very far. I don’t think she could reach her shelter the way she was tangled up that day.”
There were six dogs outside, two inside.
Naming the dogs’ names, Morton described Fugitive as emaciated, showing ribs, his face swollen, with active pus coming from his wounds and discharge from the ears. “The feces that I did observe in there were almost completely rock hard. Some of them also had mold growing on them,” Morton said.
“Okay, so that could have happened in 40 days, right, because,” Charles Hall said, “I was gone, I was in Santa Rosa County for 40 days.”
Rusty was “minimally responsive” when William Tyler Pelfrey, the emergency veterinarian, took care of him at Flagler Animal Hospital, arriving there severely undernourished. “If Rusty was underweight to begin with, he could get to that body condition within 40 days,” Pelfrey said. Rusty’s teeth were worn. “It didn’t look like normal wear to me, it looked like an animal that exhibits neurotic behavior, constant chewing, and there were broken teeth. What that came from, I don’t know whether it’s trauma, whether it’s fighting. I can’t speak for that.” But the veterinarian said it was possible that the dog had been chewing on metal.
Mama was undernourished, had flees, her teeth were worn, her vulva was bleeding, her muscle mass “wasn’t healthy muscle tissue, it was more bone and skin than muscle tissue,” Pelfrey said. She was diagnosed with malnutrition, heartworm disease, hookworms and tapeworms, and had old wounds. Hookworms are an indication of a dirty environment.
Hall became frustrated many times during the hearing from not understanding the proper way to ask questions rather than make statements. Totten attempted, patiently–as judges in such cases often have to with defendants representing themselves–to explain when she could address the court and when she could ask questions of witnesses, but Hall didn’t catch on. She had no witnesses of her own to call “because I’m basically out here by myself, trying to defend myself,” she told the judge. So she ended up addressing the court on her behalf in an attempt to refuse the case against her.
She said she went to court in Santa Rosa County in March, never knowing that she would end up in jail. A few days after she was incarcerated, she found out her dogs had been seized. She was “really emotional” in jail from what she described as having a “mini-stroke” in jail. “I tried to make the best decisions for them, from jail. Nobody is going to take care of your dogs the way you do.” She said she would never leave her dogs in the sort of conditions animal control officials found them. “When I called home, it was, like, oh the dogs are fine, the dogs are fine.” It was never explained who she’d call.
The judge’s order means the dogs–Red, Debow, Titi, Spike, Major, Rusty and Fugue–are now all the property of the Flagler Humane Society. With the exception of Mama, the dogs have recovered.
Totten said her written order, to be handed down in the near future, will include her decision on whether to allow Hall ever to have ownership of dogs in the future.
If they are available I would love to adopt Rusty. He’s adorable
Lovely Lady says
My husband and I have been fostering Rusty. After three days of having him in our home we decided we wanted to make him part of our family, so here he stays. With all he’s been through I can’t believe he’s the gentle soul he is.
Ron Shaffer and Hunter Korejwo says
NO CRIMINAL CHARGES?!? …WHAT?!?!… What excuse is it now? One more person that because of what happened decades ago, centuries ago, because they cant find a job, because they refused the opportunity of a free education or dramatically discounted, or because the sky is blue and not plaid, then its someone else’s problem. I would bet $5K that he (or she, not sure as the name is Charles but the article addressed the person as “She”. I understand the issue of pronouns as of late and have no problem with that, just explaining MY use), regardless, I would bet that the “Owner” and person that is responsible for their wellbeing has top of the line gaming system, top line cell phone, top of the line sound system in their vehicle, etc. (You get my point and if you dont, you are in denial and part of the same mindset), all of which could have been used to feed and house if not one, all of these poor living friends. If the county and/or city does not file criminal charges against this person, it is sending a blatant signal that others can do the same thing. Whether I have to contact my personal attorney and throw him a few bucks to inquire and/or refer this to an appropriate advocate in order to pressure the authorities/DA/SA/Sheriff, etc. I will. I find it laughable and a sign of the times that this person actually thinks that because they violated probation and was in jail is an excuse for this and that they are a victim as well. Typical, always someone else’s problem, no accountability by anyone it seems. We as a society and as a country of rule and law have been fed a diet of Kool-Aid that because of this reason or that reason, rules, laws and accountability no longer applies towards them. ‘Boo-Hoo’…because I was bullied in school or my daddy left my mommy or because I speak and dress like I came from a music video at a job interview, ultimately not obtaining the job, then it is okay to break laws (Which brings up my question as to why this person DIDNT break any laws or city/county ordinates) and even worse…!! Allow a living creature to live in deplorable conditions while this person has access to three meals a day, a clean bed and linens to sleep on/in, fresh water, medication and healthcare and even the means to properly use the bathroom, unlike these poor creatures that had to lie in their own excrement for 40 days (and would up my bet that this was a common occurrence and not limited to this one incident) which leads me to hope and pray that, NO, this person should legally be restricted from ever owning another living thing. Its clear the person cant take care of themselves, given the fact they were already on probation and when appearing in front of the judge, had “no idea I would be put in jail” and I don’t know too many people that don’t know when you are put on probation, the rules are not only clear and told to you, but its obvious if and when you did something you weren’t supposed to do (or have). Stop letting society slide by because of this or that, things that happened before they were born, or because someone burns down a Wendys in their own neighborhood. Which is laughable if it wasnt because of such a serious problem. We are letting people break laws because a few people burn their own neighborhood down. If they do, then charge them with arson, you dont give them a pass and then tell the world that its because they are bullied or picked on. WE ALL have been picked on, there isnt too many people in the history of the world that has not been exploited, tortured, forced to migrate, even used as a commodity, at some point in history. YES, change the way things are done, but dont say the laws will forever not apply to you because of this or that. That is why filing complaints, whistleblowing, the ACLU, attorneys, etc etc etc, I could go on and on, which I practically did here already. Enough with this lack of accountability! This person needs to be charged with animal neglect in the least. ONE MORE THING PLEASE.. Do NOT tell me that this person couldnt have told ONE guard in the morning, ONE guard in the evening, or even filled out a “Inmate Request Form” and ask that someone at the jail, please contact the county or animal control and let them know what was happening. I REFUSE to believe one person in that jail wouldn’t have had the heart to contact the authorities! This person had MULTIPLE ways to get things living things proper shelter, food and water all the while they were playing cards, watching TV, eating 3 meals, etc…. GET MY POINT!? Putting the owner in jail for 40 days compensatory and 40 days punitive is too kind in my opinion and the judge is having to decide whether to allow them to own animals in the future? REALLY?! HELLO!!! KNOCK KNOCK
The Geode says
I almost made it past the “first paragraph”…
Ron Shaffer and Hunter Korejwo says
And Mamma almost made it 40 days. I am so sorry I wasnt able to respond in Comic-Strip form. Perhaps Family Guy will have an episode on the like minded irony I was trying to express. If you stream the episode via the stolen cable, it may afford you the opportunity to breeze right through the commercials as well, since YOUR time is so much more valuable then others, or the journalist who took the time to write this, or the judge, having to school the defendant on how to act in a court of law. If only these dogs had the same opportunity as you after, lets say, thirty seconds to read my first paragraph (Okay, In your case three minutes?), instead of 40 DAYS, where they could have looked down at their empty bowls filled with excrement, or the puss dripping from their wounds, with sore teeth from chewing on metal from hunger and thought, “Hey, lets hit the road Dawg, or in this case, DOG and head down to Petsmart and get us some grub, water, shelter….” need I go on? Or are you void of any sort of EMPATHY? If only those dogs had to suffer for duration of my narrative, huh?
Close friend says
I read all you had to say. I read the whole story too. I you knew the owner she loved her animals . They were like her kids. They not tell the whole truth in the story. The truth is neighbor called on her when they didn’t see her over there. She went to court in another county was locked up for 40 days . Instead of neighbors helping out like the should . They called the animal service . When in that area everyone is family one way or another and help everyone out. This is not. A bad person how they are trying to display her as. She is a sweet girl. I have known her all her life . Is an animal lover. Things happened without you knowing . That’s why her animals was not cared for . If u go to court and think u going back home same day. How can you have made sure a person care for your animals. Don’t judge until u know the whole story not half .
Disgusted in Flagler County says
You are 100% right with every single thing you said and I couldn’t agree more. I however am not as kind as you because I would make Charles, live in the same exact conditions those dogs lived and died in. Criminal charges, definitely!
If she didn’t know what was going on and the person was telling her that her dogs was ok and good how could you say that she couldn’t video them so how could you say to put charges on her she is a good person to everyone she loves all animals they got her dogs the week before she came home
Trailer Bob says
I feel you frustration Ron and Hunter. I have been an animal lover all my life. I grew up with a German Shepherd Dog watching over my crib, and have had dogs ever since. There is no excuse for this, regardless of the owners choices to live like a loser.
Heartless, soleless and selfish.
Good luck to the dogs and may they get adopted by someone who really loves them.
Clearly it states that the person was in jail for 40 days and someone else was caring for them so them putting a lean on someones house or them ever to have dogs again is unfair
This happens a lot around Palm Coast & often it’s pit bulls involved. Owner locks the animals in the garage, shows up a couple of times to clean their cage of urine & feces. Can’t imagine what the garage smells like the better part of the day. But that daily ritual the dog gets little or no exercise. Washed of whatever the animals are forced to lay in.
For people that go to a hospital or even to court and then it is decided they can not return that same day, please tell officials if you have animals at your house even a fish in a tank. Those helpless souls need food and care just like a person and cannot speak. So as a responsible pet owner you must speak up immediately.
I cannot believe there would not be an official that would ignore your request to make sure your animals are cared for until your return.
For the lady who has rusty i know this dog he has always been gentle you will have friend for life and for the rest of the people on here commented you don’t even know nothing about this lady she didn’t go to jail because of her dogs she went to jail for a violation because somebody was stealing from her house so please get all the facts right and she didn’t know she was going to jail that day she was just supposed to being to court and her and her cousin doesn’t have any kind of relationship they just share the deed to the house and a last name Charles is named after her cousin dad so please the judge people if you don’t know all the facts that lady loves her dogs rusty penis got suck out one day and would not go back in she got some Vaseline and had to jack it back in no one takes better of your stuff /anything it doesn’t matter what it is pets,house, car , etc than you she tried to call home to try to make sure someone could look after her dogs until she got out the Humane Society got her dogs the week before she came home so please know all your facts before judging people
Trailer Bob says
I agree with you comments. I too commented without enough accurate information to do so, and for that I apologize.
There again goes the saying, “Don’t believe everything you read, and only half of what you see?
Jenn Ray says
Wait…what did she do to Rusty?? Are we just not going to address this??? OMG
She did nothing to anything to harm any of her dogs she just went to jail for probation violation for someone stealing for her yard and the week before she came home her dogs was taken but the person who was supposed to be helping her out with them wasn’t doing what they was supposed to doing but rusty and fuge had got into an fight
The Geode says