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Dog owner challenges penalty

August 24, 2012
By JOHN BORGOLINI , The Leader Herald

MAYFIELD - The attorney for a woman facing charges of animal neglect is challenging a ruling that ordered his client to pay almost $13,000 for the care of the dogs taken from her property in June.

Gerard Heckler, the attorney representing Tirzah Henry, argues in an affidavit filed Aug. 10 in Fulton County Court the dogs were taken with an invalid search warrant.

Heckler said the Fulton County Sheriff's Department and the Mohawk-Hudson Humane Society wrongfully used a search warrant in late June that stemmed from charges against Sue Kelly and they had no right to take Henry's dogs.

When Henry's 33 dogs were seized from her Progress Road home on June 19, they were initially moved to Don Nellis' All Breed Grooming on Bleecker Street in Gloversville.

City police told Nellis he couldn't keep the dogs at his shop, so he contacted Mayfield Town Dog Warden Jane Potts, who moved them to Sue Kelly's shelter, Kelly's Haven for Friends Animal Rescue, a year after Kelly was charged with animal cruelty violations herself.

Heckler said members of the humane society went to Kelly's Haven the next day without a search warrant to look at Henry's dogs. Then they and the Sheriff's Department used the existing search warrant against Kelly to take Henry's dogs, even though the warrant only said they were authorized to only take animals that belong to Kelly, Heckler said.

"It's my position that there have been several violations against Tirzah's constitutional rights," Heckler told The Leader-Herald. "There's an element here of dishonesty - not only of the sheriff's office, but also of the humane society."

Henry was opposed to the animals going to Kelly's residence, as she was aware of Kelly's previous animal cruelty charges, but she wasn't able to do anything while in custody, Heckler said. The only thing Henry could have done was surrender her dogs to the humane society, which she had no interest in doing.

On top of that, Heckler said, while in custody of the sheriff's office, members of the humane society told Henry to either surrender her dogs or they were going to take the animals.

And Heckler said the $13,000 fee to pay for the care of the animals by the humane society is even more ridiculous.

"If they've wrongfully taken the dogs, I think it's a perversion to turn around and say, 'Now pay us for the care of the dogs,'" he said.

Heckler further argued the humane society's veterinarian, Tina Murray, testified that the dogs were in good shape with the exception of two dogs and seven puppies who appeared to be "lethargic," and the reason they were lethargic was due to the fact that they had been moved from Gloversville to Mayfield and then to Troy in a matter of three days.

"If they were in good condition, what's the justification of taking those dogs?" he asked.

John Borgolini can be reached at



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