Saturday, December 3, 2016

Ohio: Another animal rescue shut down, sick animals seized. This time it's Heart's Rescue Sanctuary and Lesli Martin has been charged with animal cruelty

OHIO -- An animal rescue operation owner faces a criminal charge after deputies in Ohio said they rescued 30 cats in what they called an animal-cruelty case.

Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones announced that Lesli K. Martin, 51, is facing a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to a companion animal. The sheriff's office and dog wardens served a search warrant Wednesday at Heart's Rescue Sanctuary, where they said Martin was in charge.

Jones said that 49 cats were being housed at the sanctuary. Five cats that were removed had to be euthanized, and 21 others are still at the sanctuary, under the care of different personnel.

"It's a shame it has come to this," Jones said on Facebook. "These animals were supposed to be cared for by rescue businesses. It's the basis of their existence. It's not a good day when my employees have to rescue animals from a place of rescue."

The action was taken "after several warnings were given to the owner," according to the sheriff's office. According to the dog warden's office, it had been working on the case since August.

More charges will be filed in this case, Jones' post announced.

In June of 2015, the Journal-News profiled Martin, a former treasurer with the Kings Local School District. Then, the sanctuary had 38 cats in an 810-square-foot building.

Martin at the time said she started rescuing cats and dogs about 18 years earlier and opened the sanctuary in August of 2014. At the time, Martin declared that she had adopted out 192 cats between January of 2013 and June of 2015.

I don't believe it. Show us the adoption paperwork. I think most of these cats are dead.

"We gave Ms. Martin ample time to comply with current laws involving these animals, and she just didn't come through," said Deputy Dog Warden Kurt Merbs in the sheriff's post. "We try to help rescue businesses any way we can, including meeting with the owners, visiting the businesses and providing information on where and how to seek help with keeping healthy animals in a safe environment. Most of the cats have infections and diseases, and not all of them are treatable."

Jones encourages everyone who adopts through rescue agencies to make sure they are legitimate businesses that are genuinely caring for animals that need good homes.

Butler County Sheriff's Office release:

Heart Rescue Sanctuary Not A Safe Haven For Cats

Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones states that an investigation of cruelty to animal allegations has led to the arrest of 51 year old Leslie Martin and the rescue of almost 30 cats. Ms. Martin was in charge of the Heart Rescue Sanctuary located at 621 Breiel Boulevard in the City of Middletown.

A search warrant by Sheriff’s Deputies and Dog Wardens was executed after several warnings were given to the owner.

There were 49 total cats being housed at the Rescue Sanctuary. “We gave Ms. Martin ample time to comply with current laws involving these animals, and she just didn’t come through.

"We try to help rescue businesses any way we can, including meeting with the owners, visiting the businesses and providing information on where and how to seek help with keeping healthy animals in a safe environment.

"Most of the cats have infections and diseases and not all of them are treatable,” said Deputy Dog Warden Kurt Merbs.

Leslie Martin has been charged with cruelty to a companion animal, a misdemeanor crime.

Five of the cats that were removed had to be euthanized, 21 additional cats are still at the sanctuary but are now under the care of different personnel.

“We tried, we reached out, and it’s a shame it has come to this. These animals were supposed to be cared for by rescue businesses. It’s the basis of their existence. It’s not a good day when my employees have to rescue animals from a place of rescue,” said the Sheriff.

The Sheriff encourages everyone to make sure, if you plan to adopt through a rescue agency that they are a legitimate business that is genuine in caring for animals that need a good home. There will be more charges in this case.

The post (so far) has garnered lots of comments; many with stories of kittens adopted from Martin that had medical issues and/or died.

Some of the comments

Jackie Snell - I requested the Affidavit for Search Warrant, because it is public record, please fee free to go to my FB page and see it as I cannot post it here (it will be public) what I can tell you is that the Sheriff's Deputy Dog Warden went initially on August 3, 2016 for a report of 40-50 sick and injured cats. They subsequently followed up on 8-17, 8-29, 9-5, 9-12, 9-19 and 9-29, when the finally issued a humane warning. on 11-21 they did a followup. on 11-29 they requested to seize all injured and sick cats....very very sad indeed.

Lisa Weisbrod Risser - Seems pretty obvious that she did not try to improve conditions or ask for help. She continued to to let the cats suffer. I feel sorry for the animals that died under her watch!

Kate Hughett - She lied to my mother and I about a cat that had an infectious disease. Killed the kitten. That we adopted with it and killed 2 of 3 kittens I found.. spent hundreds of dollars on and elderly cat to get better. She had nothing to say wasn't sorry in the least! I still have her messages saved.

Janni South - We "rescued" a kitten for our son a little over a year ago from this organization...I honestly cannot remember who put us in touch with her...we called and set up an appt. (This was before her location on Breilel opened) little did we know we'd show up to a volunteers home that was totally overrun by kittens/cats. Our son was with us at the time...and out of guilt and heartbreak, we took one home. The little guy seemed perfect...for about 2 weeks...then out of nowhere he died in his sleep one night. Saddest thing ever. She offered to replace with another...we declined.

Katherine Wilder - I got my Siamese mix from her, my kitten became deathly ill not long after adoption....$300.00( every penny worth it) from the vet, she pulled through.....The vet blamed it on previous living conditions......ummmm, makes sense now....

Kelli Arnette - Let's put it this way. I could start taking in sick, injured and unwanted cats right now and become a rescue. But if you are in over your head you are over your head. I doubt the Sheriff's dept and animal control personnel are lying.

Linda Thiel-Sowders - That's how it all started. She took in too many too quick. She never isolated them in cages and let them run all over the place, the sick with the healthy... that's how it all started. She got in way over her head and would not listen to anyone.

Belinda Cannady Colwell - That's exactly what happen! No structure and no knowledge of how to care for such sick animals

Jen Metcalf - I used to clean the litter boxes at the house the cats were living in before she got her building and I witnessed at least three cats being buried in the backyard of that house after being found in there cage's dead due to them not being taken care of.. I'm just happy someone finally got all them poor cats away from her..

Kayla Gipson - I dont typically comment , But I must . Three days ago I walked into this facility and saw the condition of these cats . I have been in the veterinary field for 7yrs and can identify a sick cat when I see one . Many of these felines were sick with upper respiratory like symptoms. I simply stumbled upon this rescue and decided to go in to ask if they take donations and what they are most in need of . The woman inside did not here me come in so I stood in the lobby for a few minutes observing these cats . Immediately when walking in I was overwhelmed by the smell and could see the deplorable conditions. The woman appeared and I asked if they were accepting donations . The woman's response to me as she nervously stood across the room from me was" well the dog warden was here today so I don't know what is going to happen ." Well now we know what was going to happen . This is a shame and I truly hope Middletown can have a successful sanctuary in the future .

Lesli Martin herself got on the Sheriff's Facebook page and started complaining:

Lesli Martin - I will be filing a law suit against you for defamation of character and harassment! This is so not true! You guys lie and pretend to do the best for the animals, many people know different. This will all come out in court what horrible people you are! I was not arrested and no one has taken over my Rescue. The kittens that were taken were under vet care at the time they were taken. You guys really messed up by posting this!

Her post alone has 67 replies already. Some of the best comments:

Lesli Martin - Oh and by the way. An animal Rescue is just what it says. We rescue sick, abused and neglected animals to get them them the medical care they need.

Amber Schirmer - I dont think the sheriffs office would post a lie

Jessica Benjamin - Well I was there and this is a lie and it will all be handled in court and not of the court of Facebook.

Note: Jessica Benjamin is Lesli Martin's daughter. 

Jessica is LESLI MARTIN's daughter

Eve Schwartz - I have been in that rescue and it smelled disgusting and it was filthy. Cats were everywhere and there were sick cats playing with healthy cats. I'm glad that it got shut down.

Christine Love Adkins - So you weren't arrested??? Why would they lie? They are the law. You are a sick woman who should not be taking care of anything!!!

LaRonda Barnette - It's funny how the people that are putting hateful things on here, doesn't even know her or anything about her rescue. She is a 501-3c non-profit rescue. So, put your money where your mouth is and donate!! I would not support her if she was this "bad" person the sheriffs office claims she is. My husband and I stand behind her and her rescue 110%. Oh, so does Tinks, the cat we adopted from her whom has been healthy from day one!

LaRonda Barnette - Eve Schwartz You could've volunteered to help her instead of putting her down. That's the problem, everyone wants to put her down, but nobody wants to help.

LaRonda Barnette - Amy Spears You don't even know what her "actions" were. I can guarantee that those cats were never abused!!!

Christine Love Adkins - LaRonda Barnette, but she was arrested for animal abuse. So.....

Lesli Martin - Christine Love Adkins, no I wasn't. If I was how could I respond to this post. There is no picture of me being arrested or booked.Like · Reply · 2 ·

Lesli Martin - Christine Love Adkins, no I wasn't arrested. I couldn't reply to this post.

Lesli Martin - Eve Schwartz, no you didnt

Lesli Martin - Amy Spears, I'm not in jail. Never was.

Eve Schwartz - Lesli Martin, yes I did. And my child was with me and he even commented on how dirty it was.

Amy Spears - I know Deputy Merbs.... I've worked with him before on an animal abuse case. He's a good man, and he knows his stuff. I'll be keeping a close eye on this... Animal Friends, which is where some of the cats went, shared this post as well. I guess everyone is a liar, except for you, huh Lesli? Everyone is out to get you, aren't they? They're in the wrong.... not you, right? I HIGHLY doubt that.

Amy Spears I'll also spread the word to everyone I know about you.... I made sure to share the sheriff's post. People can watch the case themselves and make their own judgment. You can squawk all day about being innocent.... those dead cats tell a different tale.

Lesli Martin - You have no idea what your talking about

Lesli Martin - Amy Spears, you have no clue what is going on. And guess what I know him too.

NOTE: Lesli Martin insists she was never arrested, wasn't taken to jail, etc. However, it says in the Sheriff's release that she was charged with Misdemeanor Animal Cruelty. In many states, certain Misdemeanors are considered 'lesser' offenses - a trip to the jail does not happen in most cases. Instead, she was probably issued a Misdemeanor citation and told when to appear for booking and court. The officer is basically arresting her right there and releasing her.  

In a nutshell, she was arrested.

Poke around Facebook and you'll find several people who denounced the Sheriff's Office, the Dog Wardens and have created conspiracy theories that a rival rescue pulled the strings because they were jealous.

Jenn Acquesta with Lesli Martin and Jessica Benjamin.
December 1 at 8:00pm ·
posted in response to the Journal-News article:
Lies, lies, and more lies. I was just there a month ago cleaning. That place is cleaned 3 times daily and all animals are under vet care. Just remember that all that is in the dark will come to light. You can't just lie and manipulate the law because you're jealous of another person. Butler County is starting to make a habit of making up their own laws or just bending the rules to do whatever they want. It's about time someone look into this wild west attitude that the county is operating under. I like Sheriff Jones but his minions are out of control.

Jackie Snell had posted in the comments that she had obtained a copy of the affidavit (thanks Jackie!). Here is a portion of it:

Animal Control officers responded to 621 S. Breiel Blvd. on 8/3/2016 for a report of 40 to 50 sick and injured cats inside of Heart Rescue Sanctuary that were not being treated by a veterinarian and in very bad shape.

Many of the cats were in awful conditions: open mouth breathing, barely moving, some of them were leaking stool, and had discharge around the nose and eyes. We issued a warning at this time and advised the owner (LESLI MARTIN) that we would be back in a week to do a follow-up and that all the cats needed to go to the vet for their illnesses.

On 8/17/2016 we returned to the rescue with Middletown zoning and board of health. The cats were taken to a veterinarian, but still not doing any better, along with the cats that were sick before even more of them were now having breathing problems and had discharge around the eyes and nose. We advised the owner LESLI MARTIN that there was an issue with the cats again and that the remaining cats needed to go to the vet because they were sick as well. This time we gave her two weeks, but advised we would be back on the following Monday to check on them.

On 8/29, 9/5, 9/12, 9/19-2016 (4 trips) we returned to the rescue to check on the welfare of the cats. Every time we returned, the cats seemed to be getting more sick and injured.

On 9/29/2016, Deputy Hearlihy issued a humane warning to the owner LESLI MARTIN for the condition of all the cats, the condition of the inside of the rescue and protocols for keeping the animals safe and healthy.

Deputy Todd and Hearlihy returned to the rescue on 11/21/2016 to do a follow-up. LESLI MARTIN would not answer her phone and she was at the rescue. After many tries we were successfully able to reach the rescue owner LESLI MARTIN although she would not cooperate with what we were requesting her to do - saying that she was on vacation and not able to show us the animals.  The person she left in charge did take two of the cats to the vet that week.

On 11/29/2016, Deputy Todd and Hearlihy returned to the rescue and met with
BRANDY MINIARD, who was the person LESLI MARTIN had left in charge while she was gone. The conditions inside the rescue were the same, if not in worse condition than they were in the months prior.

There were at least 15 cats that were sick by just looking at them and after getting into the rescue and getting 'hands on', there were at least another 10 cats that needed vet care.

At this time, Brandy advised that she would help us out with anything we needed. Because of the conditions of the inside of the rescue and the conditon of the cats, the Butler County Dog Wardens are requesting to seize all injured and sick cats from the rescue to be humanely euthanized at Animal Friends Humane Society for the well-being of the healthy cats inside of the rescue. We are also requesting LESLI MARTIN sign over all the sick and injured felines (and any other cats that are deemed unhealthy to a cat colony) to Animal Friends Humane Society so that they can be euthanized on arrival at the shelter due to contagious viruses.

I hate that they planned on euthanizing the cats and kittens without even trying to save them. But I don't live in that community so I don't know what their resources are. 

Click on the photo to see full-size image


Martin has started a fund-raising page to open up a shelter somewhere else. 
Incredibly, five people have already given her money so she can continue abusing and neglecting animals. 

Michele DeCresce donated $75
"Lesli Martin is a dynamic rescue advocate whose interests are totally for the animals not herself. PLEASE HELP her in her relocation efforts."

Rebecca S Spencer donated $50
"Hope you get to keep it going! Good luck!"

Bob Newsom donated $25
Blessings to you for all that you do for the furbabies"

DeRhonda Adams donated $100

Anonymous donated $25
"To get the ball rolling!! Please donate to this very much needed Rescue. They are your local Rescue and need you. She has dedicated her life to this cause and has done so much for her community by doing so. Please find it in your heart to help! We must unite and help all the animals!"

Hopefully, her criminal charges will prevent that - for at least a determined amount of time. But any plea agreement or sentence needs to include mental health counseling. Without it, the recidivism rate for hoarders is 100%. And she will only be on probation for a short period of time before she is legally allowed to start 'collecting' again. 

LESLI MARTIN's version of events:
The Rescue is in need of raising funds to move to another facility. If the funds aren't raised, I'll be forced to close. When I moved in this building up at the Middletown Shopping Center, the owners failed to look up the zoning code for their facility. I am not zoned to have a kennel. So after 3 years I have very limited time to raise funds.

I was focusing on a building on Central Ave., Middletown. I have re-evaluated the situation and for the safety of the animals and zoning, I have shifted focus to a building on Cincinnati Dayton Road. The building needs very little work. If anyone could volunteer their time to build a few walls, paint, and cleaning, I would so appreciate it!

I am still in need of raising funds to move. I am now needing $1700.00. Thank you to those that have donated in this effort to save the Rescue. Time is not on my side. If I can't raise these funds to move, like I said, I'll have to shut down. I have no where to take the animals I have and will not be able to help any others in need. I am the only Rescue in Middletown and this is a desperate call for help to all my supporters and donators.

I have saved Many lives, I have adopted out 100's of animals, I have taken in animals when there was no room, had all their medical check ups, shots, spay/neutered, flea meds, and FIV/Leukemia tested (all are negative). I have helped other people with food to feed their colonies, and many other great things for the animals of this community. I will not give up! But I do need your help!

If you would like to help me with my endeavor to continue doing what I love, please send donations to: 2208 Jackson Lane, Middletown, Ohio 45044. If you would like to make a donation with a credit card go to: All donations are tax deductible!! Please share!! Hugs!!

P.S. I can't stress enough this is urgent. Also I want everyone to know that the Rescue is ran on donations only and volunteers including myself, work hard and diligently, for the animals.

(Journal News - Dec 2, 2016)


  1. LaRhonda is her long time friend. So it makes sense she donates and worships LM

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. She is not the only rescue in Middletown. There is another who has stopped rescuing for a bit to raise funds. I think the owner is trying to get a building in Central Middletown.