Saturday, December 31, 2016

California: Suzanne Sollenne pleads no contest to animal abuse charges, will be on probation for five years

CALIFORNIA -- An Atascadero woman who claimed to be “rescuing and rehoming death row dogs” when she was arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty in August will avoid jail time after accepting a plea deal Wednesday.

Suzanne Sollenne, 58, was arrested Aug. 18 at her 1,700-square-foot, two-story home on the 7400 block of Bella Vista Road in Atascadero, where the Atascadero Police Department and San Luis Obispo County Animal Services said dozens of dogs — many in need of medical care — were living in unhealthy and inhumane conditions.

A total of 46 dogs of varying size, age and health were confiscated from the home, and the decomposed remains of at least two others were found in a yard next to it, authorities said at the time.

Sollenne pleaded not guilty in September to three felony charges of cruelty to animals and 11 misdemeanor charges of failing to care for, or provide an exercise area for, an animal.

On Wednesday, however, Sollenne pleaded no contest to one of the felonies and one of the misdemeanor charges, and the remaining charges were dismissed, according to court records.

Under the terms of her plea, she must complete five years of felony probation, perform 100 hours of community service work and complete unspecified counseling. Over that time, she is not allowed to own or maintain dogs or pets other than the goats and chickens she has on her property.

Should Sollenne successfully complete probation, she can apply to have her felony conviction expunged.

Photos of dogs are after their rescue.

The plea was entered just hours before Sollenne was scheduled to attend a preliminary hearing in which prosecutors would have presented evidence against her and a judge would have decided whether probable cause existed to take the case to trial.

Sollenne did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday, but she said in a previous series of emails to The Tribune that she’s rescued and rehomed about 500 “death row dogs” — those with health or mental problems or other barriers to adoption — in the 22 years she has lived in San Luis Obispo County.

Animal Services Director Eric Anderson previously said the majority of dogs were found housed on the second floor, most in metal crates without access to food or water. Some suffered from minor ailments but others were seriously debilitated and malnourished or injured, Anderson said.


Sollenne disputed those claims, writing that during the early morning search of her home, most dogs were sleeping downstairs where a pet door allowed them outdoor access. The loose dogs on the second floor also had access to the first floor and the yard, Sollenne said, and a 20-gallon water bucket sat just outside the pet door.

Since the dogs were confiscated, at least two were euthanized, Anderson said in September, but the majority of the animals were rehabilitated and put up for adoption at Animal Services, Woods Humane Society and regional animal shelters in neighboring counties.

Sollenne is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 23.

(KSBY San Luis Obispo News - Dec 15, 2016)


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