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.

Trustees approve ‘small’ 4.6% raise for tuition at UT

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 19

As it has every year for the last decade, the University of Toledo’s board of trustees approved a budget yesterday that raises tuition for students.

Beginning in the fall, undergraduates will pay 4.6 per cent more than they did last year, an increase several trustees criticized as too small.

UT President Frank Horton said the tuition increase was $210 per term below the assumptions made by the Ohio Board of Regents. “We are not up to the OBOR levels,” he said, “but we think this is a good balance.”

Officials said not raising tuition to those levels will cost the university $4 million a year in lost revenue, and some said the cost to students should be even higher.

“If our budget comes back at the end of the year unbalanced, this loss will hurt us for years to come,” said trustee Ronald Langenderfer.

Nationwide, college tuition has outstripped inflation since the 1970s. This year, every four-year public university in Ohio is raising tuition more than the inflation rate.

The largest increase is at Miami University, where tuition is being raised 6 per cent.

Had UT’s tuition increased only at the rate of inflation – that is, the average rate of all other consumer goods – next year’s tuition and fees would be nearly $800 less than today’s.

The budget projects a $10.7 million increase in revenue, more than half of it from tuition increases. It assumes a 3 per cent decline in enrollment, in part because of the university’s switch this fall from a quarter system to a semester system.

Since semesters are longer and more costly than quarters, many students crammed in their work before the switch. As a result, May’s commencement was the largest in UT history, with 3,312 students graduating.

The $188 million budget is projected to balance. It invests $1.2 million in computers for student use and $1.5 million in scholarships. Nearly all employees will receive 4 per cent raises, including administrators, campus police, and clerical workers.

Dr. Horton’s salary will be determined separately from budget negotiations, but he is contractually guaranteed an annual raise equal to or greater than what the university’s employees receive.

He makes $174,408 a year and receives a house in Ottawa Hills and a car as part of his compensation package.

Postal service to phase out Jeeps; Minivans are replacing small, aging, rough-riding vehicles

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 11

It’s the end of an era, there’s no doubt about it.

The squat white Jeeps that have carried Toledo’s mail since the 1960s will soon rest in peace alongside milk trucks, slide rules, and rotary phones – features of everyday life pushed aside by advancing technology.

U.S. Postal Service officials in Detroit will announce this morning that they are phasing out the nationwide fleet of 27,000 Jeeps and replacing them with that bastion of suburbia, the minivan. Nine thousand Ford Windstars and Aerostars will flood the streets of America this summer, with more to come over time.

Northwest Ohio has 70 to 80 of the Jeeps, according to customer services coordinator Ron Metzger. About 25 of those are in Toledo.

Within the next two months, 70 vans will take their place. The first of them have arrived to rave reviews from carriers.

“They’re terrific,” said James Ellis, a special-delivery messenger and driving instructor. “They’re excellent – much more pleasant to drive than those old Jeeps.”

For an American icon, postal Jeeps are in pretty sorry shape. The government stopped buying them in 1983, so the fleet is at least 14 years old.

Carrier Kathy Schultz said most at her station date from 1973, making parts almost impossible to find.

The old Jeeps were hardly models of safety. Top-heavy, they could topple easily at high speed and slide in winter weather. Many had mufflers so loud they could drown out conversation. And they were notoriously rough-riding.

“The vans are so much better than the old Jeeps,” Mr. Ellis said. “My kidneys thank me that I don’t have to drive one of those things.”

The amount of mail the postal service carries has risen steadily in the 1990s. The new vans will have enough room to easily carry the vacuum cleaners, barbells, and stationary bikes that some people send through the mail.

“One guy in Germany sent every thing he owned back home, six or seven boxes at a time,” Ms. Schultz said. “In the Jeeps, we would have had to deliver it all over two or three days, because we couldn’t fit it all in the back. In the van, we can do it in one trip.”

Postal officials said fewer trips could speed up a carrier’s route.

The Jeeps simply weren’t built for speed. “They all had a big sticker on them, ‘advising’ drivers not to go past 50 miles an hour,” Mr. Ellis said. “They scared me.”

“It’s sad to see an era go,” Mr. Metzger said. “That’s what I drove when I was a carrier. … But times have changed.”

For those who have sat behind a Jeep’s wheel for years, switching to a minivan – whose steering wheel is on the left, not the right – takes adjustment. “The first few times I drove it, I went to the wrong door,” Ms. Schultz said.

But for most drivers, the cushioned seats and working shocks make up for a little confusion.

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.

Glenn advised to stay grounded; Toledo seniors comment on senator’s bid to return to space

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 11

If 72-year-old George Bush can jump out of an airplane at 12,000 feet, why can’t 75-year-old John Glenn take a few more laps around the planet?

That’s the question in the hands of NASA officials, who will decide whether the senator and ex-astronaut should make a return trip to space, more than three decades after he became the first American to orbit the earth.

Sunday morning, NASA administrator Daniel Goldin said he was giving “very serious consideration” to Mr. Glenn’s request for one final launch.

But many senior citizens at the East Toledo Family Center’s afternoon shuffleboard match yesterday were less than enthusiastic about Mr. Glenn’s post-retirement plans.

“John Glenn had his chance,” said Dorothy Backhurst, 81. “Someone else should have the chance. He’s got plenty of money. He doesn’t need the publicity. He’s gotten everything he needs.”

Said her husband, Roland, 88: “There are a lot of folks who’ve worked hard and deserve to go ahead of him.”

Of course, some people think the whole debate is a big waste of time. “I don’t think anybody belongs up there,” said Norbert Miller, the 81-year-old who periodically announces the score mid-game. “There are too many problems down here on Earth for anyone to waste time going up there. It’s all just a publicity stunt anyway.”

Don Thie, resting after a game, disagreed. “Why, at 75 years old, would he need publicity? As an ex-navy man, I think it’s wonderful.”

Would he take Mr. Glenn’s place on the shuttle?

“In a country minute,” he said.

Mr. Glenn argues that he presents a rare opportunity – the chance to study how older folks respond to the multiple g-forces of takeoff and the weightlessness of orbit. Scientists have shown that long stays in space can reduce muscle strength and weaken bones. For older people, those effects could be crippling.

Nancy Tremmel, the center’s program director and a gerontologist, said she was excited by the opportunity to use Mr. Glenn as a guinea pig for a study on extraterrestrial aging. “I think it would be interesting to see the effects of space on a 75-year-old body. He’s earned the right.”

But most seniors at the shuffleboard showdown said the senator should stay grounded.

“Let the young guys do it,” said Norm Schiffler, 71. “They could handle it a lot better. They know the technology and have all the training. We admire his gusto, but a lot of guys deserve it more.”

His advice to Mr. Glenn – find some way to relax that doesn’t involve orbiting the earth at 17,500 miles an hour.

“Let him settle back for a while. Enjoy life doing other things.”

And if the ex-senator has any difficulty keeping occupied after his retirement, he has an open invitation in East Toledo.

“Tell him to come on over,” Mr. Schiffler said, running his hands over a shuffleboard puck. “We’ll teach him a new avocation.”