Couple guilty in abuse of dogs

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 5

SWANTON — A couple were found guilty of 12 counts of animal abuse here yesterday.

Mary Barker, 40, and Jose Vasquez, 63, were convicted of not providing sufficient shelter, exercise, and air circulation for six animals, three of which they kept in stacked crates in a closed closet. The Swanton couple operated Mary and Joe’s Petland on Airport Highway, where they sold dogs with forged veterinary records and pedigrees, the court found.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome,” prosecutor Colin McQuade said.

The defendants vowed to appeal the decision. “I am totally in shock about the way they lie,” Ms. Barker said.

Jurors said their conclusions were reached without much contention. “We stuck to the facts,” juror David Hardy said. “They just didn’t take care of those dogs, and she misled people.”

Added juror Jim Baker: “They just shouldn’t keep dog cages in closets. That got to me.”

Mr. Baker blamed the abuse on the size of the pet store. “Too many dogs, too fast. It just got out of hand.” Officials seized 55 dogs from the store in December. The couple were convicted of keeping 10 German Shepherd puppies in a single small travel case.

The fate of the dogs is undecided. They are under the care of the Fulton County Humane Society, but Mr. McQuade said there was a possibility some might be returned to the couple. The society has filed suit seeking payment from the couple for its expenses, and it is unlikely the dogs’ fate will be determined until the suit is settled, he said.

Ms. Barker said she was at the center of a government conspiracy to kill animals. “It’s the dog pound people who kill dogs, not me,” she said. “They don’t like me saving what they kill.”

She accused authorities of purposefully killing some of her dogs “so it would look good for them” and their case. She has said the dogs had died of “homesick ness.”

Accused of altering sections of veterinary records to make dogs appear healthier than they were, Ms. Barker said, “I probably just misspelled parts and whited them out. I’m not the greatest speller.”

She hopes to reopen a breeding business, she said, although she wants to deal exclusively in small dogs.

Mr. McQuade said he had no sympathy for the defendants because their actions extended beyond animal cruelty. Ms. Barker and Mr. Vasquez were also found guilty of tax evasion and theft charges. In addition, Ms. Barker was convicted of resisting arrest but cleared of obstructing official business.

“This was a scam operation, not just abuse,” Mr. McQuade said.

The couple face sentencing July 30. All of the charges were misdemeanors, but Mr. McQuade said the couple could face up to 10 years in prison if their sentences are served consecutively.

“I think some jail time is appropriate,” he said.

Jury begins deliberations in pair’s animal-abuse trial

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 14

SWANTON — The animal-abuse case here is in the hands of a jury.

Both sides concluded their cases yesterday in the trial of Mary Barker and Jose Vasquez, who run Mary and Joe’s Petland on Airport Highway. They are each charged with 12 counts of animal abuse. Officials claim they starved their dogs, packed them into closed closets, and left them exposed in burning sunshine and winter snow. They are charged with falsifying veterinary records and bloodline documentation to save money.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Jeff Lydy called his clients victims of overzealous police work. He said the many illnesses from which his clients’ dogs suffered could afflict even the best cared-for animal.

“Dogs get worms,” he said, picking one example. “It’s a fact.

“We’ve all seen dogs with worms and these other ailments.”

He showed the jury seven photos of kennels with filled food and water dishes to indicate his clients did feed their dogs; he said the prosecution was latching on to a isolated incidents.

In response, prosecutor Colin McQuade said the accusations were part of a clear pattern. “Mistake after mistake after mistake are not mistakes. They’re habits.”

He also noted that the cages shown in Mr. Lydy’s photos did not house the dogs for which the defendants were being charged.

After a lunch break, Judge Robert Saxer gave more than 30 minutes of instructions to the jury, carefully detailing each charge. The six men and two women deliberated for more than three hours, then adjourned for the night.

Ms. Barker and Mr. Vasquez face charges of theft and income tax fraud. In addition, Ms. Barker is charged with resisting arrest and obstructing official business.

The trial will enter its fifth day this morning when the jury resumes deliberation.

Holiday weekend crackdown on drunken drivers nets 49

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 11

July 4 didn’t mean independence for 49 Toledo and area residents arrested on alcohol and drug charges over the weekend.

They were cited as part of Operation Holiday Zero Tolerance, a crackdown on drunken drivers by the Toledo Liquor Enforcement Office.

“It was a real success, no doubt about it,” said Earl Mack, the agent in charge of enforcement operations.

The liquor enforcement agents spent the weekend in unmarked cars, rolling down area streets and highways in search of underage drinkers and other alcohol offenders. When they saw a suspicious vehicle, agents radioed to the Ohio Highway Patrol or local sheriff’s departments, who moved in to make the arrests.

By weekend’s end, 49 people had been charged with a total of 62 crimes, most first-degree misdemeanors punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Seven bars and stores – six in Toledo and one in Fremont – were charged with the sale of alcohol to minors and other counts.

“We’re out there doing our best to assist in enforcement,” Mr. Mack said.

This was the liquor office’s first holiday roundup, but it plans similar efforts for Labor Day weekend and other holidays. Seventeen people died on Ohio roads over the weekend, compared with 19 last year.

While most arrests were in Toledo, 22 were in surrounding towns, including 11 in Fremont. Five of those arrests occurred Saturday, when five minors ranging in age from 12 to 17 were arrested at the Village Way Daywood Apartments, Fremont, on alcohol and drug charges. Officials said a 12-year-old boy was charged with possession of beer and marijuana.