Maryland woman sentenced in appeal over animal cruelty case involving over 100 dogs, cats

A Washington County woman received a suspended sentence Monday in an appeal over a Hancock-area animal cruelty case that led to 113 dogs and cats being removed from her home almost two years ago.

Kelly Elizabeth Powell, 45, entered an Alford plea in Washington County Circuit Court to 10 counts of animal cruelty for failing to provide proper space.

An Alford plea does not admit guilt, but acknowledges the prosecution has enough evidence to obtain a conviction.

Powell and her husband, Barry Wayne Powell, were sentenced in Washington County District Court last October to six months in jail. They entered Alford pleas in July to 15 counts of animal cruelty/failure to provide veterinary care and/or proper space while an animal was in their charge and custody.

Within two days of their sentencing, notices of appeal were filed for both their cases, moving the matters to circuit court.

The animal cruelty charges Powell entered an Alford plea to on Monday center around the humane society's veterinarian finding the animals in the home were deprived of proper space because they couldn't get away from their own feces, Assistant State's Attorney Danielle Lackovic told the court.

The Humane Society of Washington County rescued 91 dogs and 21 cats from an "extreme hoarding situation" on June 8, 2021, in the Hancock area.
The Humane Society of Washington County rescued 91 dogs and 21 cats from an "extreme hoarding situation" on June 8, 2021, in the Hancock area.

The home's floor was covered with feces and urine and many of the animals' fur was covered in feces, Lackovic said.

Judge Brett R. Wilson sentenced Kelly Powell to the maximum 90 days incarceration per count — or about 30 months total, but suspended the entire sentence. Powell will be on supervised probation for three years. Wilson said she is not to have any animals under her control, supervision or care. That includes household pets and livestock.

Powell also is to attend any mental health evaluation and treatment recommended through her probation agent, Wilson said.

The remaining 98 animal cruelty charges from the appeal of the June 2021 animal cruelty case are dismissed as part of the plea deal.

A 2022 animal cruelty case against Powell was placed on the stet, or inactive docket, as part of the plea deal. Lackovic said that case will be dismissed when Powell completes her probation.

Humane Society Field Services Director Crystal Mowery, in an interview, said eight dogs, including five puppies, were removed from the home in the February 2022 case. All of those dogs have been adopted.

Care of rescued animals cost thousands

A certified cashier's check for $5,000 for restitution to the Humane Society of Washington County was submitted near the end of Monday's plea hearing.

Mowery, after the hearing, said the immediate medical care needed for the dogs and cats cost more than $10,000.

A few of the 91 dogs rescued the prior day from a Hancock-area property, rest in an outdoor kennel on June 9, 2021, at the Humane Society of Washington County.
A few of the 91 dogs rescued the prior day from a Hancock-area property, rest in an outdoor kennel on June 9, 2021, at the Humane Society of Washington County.

Humane Society Executive Director Colin Berry said that didn't include spaying/neutering and ongoing medical and individual needs for the animals after that immediate care.

Of the 113 dogs and cats removed from the Hancock-area home, five dogs and 11 cats were euthanized and a 12th cat died, Mowery has said. Some of the rescued animals were pregnant, with 29 puppies later born. Of those puppies, seven died at birth.

All of the surviving animals have been adopted, Berry said.

"The community, they're the ones that helped save these animals through donating, volunteering, fostering and adopting," Berry said. "So many of these families are still struggling with dogs who are just learning to be dogs."

When the dogs and cats were rescued in June 2021, the nonprofit sought donations for their care and raised about $60,000. Berry said she thinks the humane society about broke even on the case's costs thanks to those donations.

"It's a relief to have at least a portion of this case behind us and for the animals to have received some justice for everything they endured," Berry said.

Lackovic said an offer has been extended to Barry Powell in his appeal case.

His appeal trial is scheduled for October, according to his online case docket.

Co-defendant apologizes in animal cruelty case

Kelly Powell told Wilson, "I realize now that I should have acted differently and done something sooner. But I felt trapped between my father telling me I wouldn't have a place to live ... and knowing I was the only one who could take care of him."

"I regret all of it and I'm very sorry," Powell said.

Sean Mukherjee, one of Powell's public defenders, said this is a mental health case.

Garrett Byron, Powell's other public defender, said Powell's parents had a few dogs when she returned home to care for her ailing mother. When her mother died, there were fewer than 20 dogs in the home. Powell's father had hoarding symptoms and there was a power struggle between the Powells and her father.

Within five to six days of her father having a stroke, the animals were removed from the home, Byron said.

Lackovic said when humane society officials responded to the home in June 2021, after information from a deputy, Powell agreed to sign over ownership of the animals to the humane society.

Byron said Powell struggles with various mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and is seeing a therapist.

"This was a very challenging family dynamic," Mukherjee said, with Powell pleading with her father for a place to stay. She acknowledges she should have taken more action, urgent action sooner, he said.

Powell spent three days in jail, which was an "eye-opening experience" for her, Mukherjee said. Powell put together more restitution money to, in part, pay her debt to society.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 5:29 p.m. on May 23, 2023, to correct the total donations the Humane Society of Washington County received for the case.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail: Hancock, Md.-area woman sentenced in appeal of big animal cruelty case