A Hagerstown-area man continues to be held without bond at the Washington County Detention Center in an animal cruelty case that involves several dead and sick cats and dogs.
The case involves a trailer home southeast of Hagerstown that Humane Society of Washington County officials have served search and seizure warrants on at least three times this year, seizing and treating several surviving animals.
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Fifteen cats and three dogs were removed from the home over multiple dates, according to court records and humane society Field Services Director Crystal Mowery.
“Many of the animals were made available for adoption,” although some were still being treated, Mowery wrote in an email earlier this month.
A dog and at least six cats were confirmed dead at the home, Mowery wrote.
Among the dead animals was a dog on the floor in front of a couch and a long-dead cat on a kitchen counter by a microwave, according to court records.
“The home was a hoarder situation and there could have been more we did not see,” Mowery wrote when asked how many dead animals were in the home.
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Holding a defendant in an animal cruelty case without bond is “highly unusual,” Mowery wrote. Other than a dog-fighting case in which the defendant also had gun charges, this is the first time Mowery said she has seen an animal cruelty defendant held without bond during her 10-year tenure.
Assistant State’s Attorney Danielle Lackovic, during a May 3 hearing in Washington County Circuit Court, told Judge Brett R. Wilson there was a 131-count indictment for Michael Scott Hyatt, 60, of Crossfield Road.
The charges include 17 counts of felony aggravated animal cruelty. Each of those felony counts is punishable by up to three years incarceration and/or a $5,000 fine.
Lackovic said Hyatt was previously told one of his bond conditions was not to house or possess animals and yet Hyatt authorities told him that he had cats at home.
One of the times officers went to the home to serve a warrant, the blinds were shut and Hyatt didn’t answer the door, but officers saw Hyatt get in a car and try to leave the property, Lackovic said.
Prosecutor argued for animal cruelty defendant to be held without bond
Telling Wilson she couldn’t adequately describe the scene with words, Lackovic showed the judge pictures from the home.
With Lackovic asking for Hyatt to be held without bond, Wilson checked the state law for holding someone without bond, pretrial. Wilson said one concern he had was that under state law, an animal was not considered a victim.
When Wilson asked if there was a danger to the community, Lackovic said a dog from the home was discovered off the property and could spread disease. Lackovic said she and humane society field officers wore hazmat suits into the home and yet that dog had traveled in and out of the trailer and had been near other people in the trailer park while running all over the place.
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Wilson said the free running dog satisfied the court’s concern, given the toxic situation in the house and that an animal leaving the house could spread disease to people in the trailer park.
Assistant Public Defender Robert Sheehan said there had been nothing on the record about the disease being spread and no representation of a public danger in terms of disease being present or spreading.
Lackovic said he could detail the exams of the animals rescued from the home, including fleas and worms, worms in the intestinal tract, and other things that could spread to other animals or people who came in contact with the animals.
Wilson pointed out the severe conditions in the home, the danger to the community when the animals kept in the home were not controlled, and the previous disrespect Hyatt had shown for a ruling that he would not continue to have animals in the home. He ordered Hyatt held without bond.
Sheehan, who represented Hyatt at the May 3 hearing, said Hyatt didn’t have a prior record and had limited resources. He asked Wilson to consider releasing conditions for Hyatt, given his health issues and concerns about Hyatt’s ability to get his disability benefits and medications.
Hyatt has serious medical conditions, including arterial disease, Sheehan said. He said Hyatt was barely able to stand at the bond hearing due to a swollen foot.
Animal control dons hazmat gear to enter home
The humane society learned about the situation after a woman went to Hyatt’s home in late February to check on her animals, at Hyatt’s request, while she was hospitalized, according to charging documents. The woman reported the conditions at home and that a dog at home was in “extremely poor condition.”
Mowery arrived a few days later with a search and seizure warrant and was “immediately overwhelmed by the smell” when she walked to the door, she wrote in charging documents. She described the smell of ammonia from urine, feces and decay from rotting animals, with the odor making her gag and burning her throat when the door was opened.
She closed the door and she and her officers put on full hazmat gear with respirators to go inside, state court records.
Flies and fleas covered every surface in the house, with urine and feces covering the home’s floor, she wrote. Litter boxes were overflowing.
Numerous cats were running around, many of whom appeared ill, Mowery wrote in charging documents.
Among the conditions described in charging documents for some of the cats were being under weight, dental disease, hair loss in places, and congestion. At least one cat turned out to have been pregnant, but two fetuses had died, according to court records.
Many of the misdemeanor animal cruelty charges dealt with failing to provide veterinary care, proper water, proper space, proper shelter, food and water.
The cats’ names, provided by the humane society, include Benmowlio, Meowtague, Lady Catpulet, Romeow, and Friar Meowance, according to court records.
This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail: Judge orders Maryland man held without bond in animal cruelty case