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Commonwealth v. Shickora

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

May 21, 2015

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
ELIZABETH SHICKORA, Appellant

Submitted May 4, 2015

Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence entered August 19, 2014 of the Court of Common Pleas, Schuylkill County, Criminal Division, No(s): CP-54-SA-0000041-2014. Before DOLBIN, J.

Kent D. Watkins, Saint Clair, for appellant.

Christine A. Holman, Assistant District Attorney, Pottsville, for Commonwealth, appellee.

BEFORE: BENDER, P.J.E., ALLEN, and WECHT, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1151

ALLEN, J.

Elizabeth Shickora (" Appellant" ) appeals from the judgment of sentence imposed after the trial court heard her summary appeal de novo, and convicted her of eighteen (18) counts of cruelty to animals, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5511(c). Finding that the trial court acted within its province in concluding that Appellant acted wantonly by " unreasonably risking harm while being utterly indifferent to the consequences", we affirm.

The trial court accurately recounted the evidence of record as follows:

At the hearing, Sergeant Duane Frederick (" Frederick" ) testified a neighbor of [Appellant's] contacted the Rush Township Police department on the evening of December 9, 2013 regarding the animals at [Appellant's] home. At 9:00 AM on December 10, 2013, Frederick arrived at the home, and [Appellant] allowed him to enter. Frederick found the home conditions to be horrendous, one of the worst he had ever seen. The floor was covered with animal feces, as were the carpeting and walls. There were numerous dogs in cages, and feces was on the dogs and cages. The dogs were all barking and it was chaos. Frederick backed out of the home and advised [Appellant] that he was going to call the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (" SPCA" ) because he needed more manpower in the situation. [Appellant] told Frederick she did not want her animals killed by the SPCA, and refused to allow Frederick back into her home. [Appellant] was now outside of her home, and told Frederick it was her house and to get off her property. Frederick accordingly left, verified that [Appellant] was the property owner on the Schuylkill County Parcel Locator, and obtained a search warrant. Frederick returned to the home later that day, and by that time, several SPCA employees had arrived, had spoken to [Appellant], and [Appellant] had allowed them to enter the home and remove the animals one at a time. After the animals were secured, Frederick issued eighteen citations and left.
Frederick testified that during the incident, [Appellant] informed him that she was elderly and in poor health, and had been in the hospital weeks prior. Frederick testified that [Appellant] had control of the house, and he did not believe that she tried to remedy it. Frederick did not believe that [Appellant] intended for the conditions to get that bad, but they did. Frederick stated that [Appellant] did not think the home condition was a problem. Frederick stated the home conditions were " out of control" and had built up over a long time.
Next, Janice Choplick (" Choplick" ) testified. She is the Humane Officer for Hillside SPCA in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. She received a phone call from Frederick asking the SPCA to respond and assist. They arrived at [Appellant's] home in the early afternoon of December 10, 2013. They spoke with [Appellant] and asked her to allow them to help. [Appellant] allowed them into the home. They saw many dogs, several to a crate. The dogs were covered in feces. The smell and the presence of urine were overpowering. The house was filled with dogs, some of which were running around. Choplick told [Appellant] that they would help her but they needed more manpower. [Appellant] who remained in the doorway told them to take a particular dog out with them, which they did. They called for two more helpers.

Page 1152

The first time in the house, Choplick did not observe any food or water. The second time in, she observed a bowl. The house was filthy, dirty, cluttered and full of junk. In her opinion it was not fit for human or animal habitation. The dogs were infested with fleas, had matted hair, eye problems and long nails. Choplick attempted to talk with [Appellant] about the animals' condition, but [Appellant] did not want to hear what Choplick had to say and nothing Choplick said mattered.
On cross examination, Choplick stated that she did not speak to [Appellant] about [Appellant]'s health issues, and did not know [Appellant] had been in the hospital. Choplick believed that the animals' and home's condition violated the law. She testified that it was difficult to tell whether the animals were malnourished because of the matting of their fur. The dogs looked to her to be in poor condition. All of the dogs received veterinary treatment upon arrival at the SPCA. Choplick testified that if in fact someone had been coming to the home to take care of the animals, it had not been recently.
Next, S[PC]A worker Maureen Graf (" Graf" ) testified. She has been with the Hillside SPCA for fourteen years and often works with Choplick. She went with Choplick to [Appellant's] residence. [Appellant] also let Graf in. Graf testified that the floor of the home was covered with feces, as were the boxes and crates housing the animals. The smell of urine was strong. The dogs had matted hair and were in poor condition. They were not healthy.
Graf took six photographs. She identified 1A as a crate taken from the home containing two dogs, which was brown because it was covered in feces. She testified that everything in the home was covered in feces. Photograph 1B was of the cat, which was found in a cage in the basement. The crate was covered with feces, cat hair and filled with cat food cans. The cage had not been cleaned for a long time.
Photograph 1C shows the same crate as photograph 1A, but with a dog inside. Photograph 1D shows an empty crate inside the home that was under the kitchen table, on a floor covered in feces. The crate was also covered in feces. Photograph 1E depicts the kitchen floor leading to the back door, showing a small path and the floor covered with feces and trash. Finally, photograph 1F shows the cat in the cage, with feces and hair caked on the shelf above the litter box. Graf testified that they were able to save the cat.
Graf testified that she saw one bowl of food for the animals the second time she entered the home.
Graf testified that [Appellant] was cooperative when they first came into the home, and gave them one of the dogs to take. After that, [Appellant] refused to allow them to take any more animals until Frederick had a search warrant. Graf did not speak to [Appellant] about her health conditions. Graf testified that the home conditions were not suitable for habitation. Graf had no prior dealings with [Appellant] and has handled cruelty cases for Hillside SPCA for two to three years. Graf testified that they took all of the animals from the home and returned the crates. She took the photographs after Frederick returned with the search warrant. The dogs were all on the first ...

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