Erica Petro, 32, was arrested Sept. 23 after Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies received an anonymous 911 call to check on kittens left inside a white Kia Spectra parked at St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church on Johnnycake Ridge Road.
“I’m sorry this happened,” Petro told Lake County Common Pleas Judge Richard L. Collins Jr. “I wish I could have done things a lot differently.”
Assistant Lake County Prosecutor Alexandra Kutz and Assistant Public Defender Melissa Blake said Petro suffered from untreated mental health issues and meant the kittens no harm.
Collins agreed to put Petro on three years probation as long as she successfully complete Mentor Municipal Court’s Mental Health Court, an approximately two-year long program, and abide by several other restrictions.
Petro is also required to obtain social services help for her housing and other basic needs, abstain from alcohol and illegal drugs, submit to random urine screenings and take all prescription medications as prescribed.
In addition, she must pay her court costs and court supervision fees, work or go to school full-time and seek mental health counseling on an ongoing basis.
She is also not permitted to own, possess or care for a companion animal.
If she violates any of those terms of probation, she will be sentenced to Lake County Jail for 172 days.
The judge found Petro, who had no prior juvenile or adult criminal history, showed genuine remorse.
Petro said she had been at the church seeking help and didn’t know she was putting the kittens in harm’s way.
Deputies got to the scene shortly after noon to find the locked car parked in the 82-degree heat with all the windows up and no people inside.
A small animal cage with three small tabby kittens inside was exposed to sunlight. They were flea-infested and foaming at the mouth.
Deputies said they gave the kittens water to cool their body temperatures. Two responded to the water treatment but a third’s seizures persisted and that animal did not survive, officials said.
Petro originally was charged with three felony animal cruelty counts under Ohio House Bill 60, also known as Goddard’s Law, which went into effect Sept. 13.
She pleaded guilty last month to three misdemeanor cruelty to companion animals charges. Each count carried a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail.
I think this is actually a good resolution because mental health, drug and alcohol, etc. is being addressed. She does seem to be remorseful and there may have been some alcohol/drug issues she was dealing with that made her think it was ok to leave the kittens in the car. No matter whether they had continued the prosecution as a felony or as a misdemeanor, they couldn't keep her from owning animals again at some point in her life.
Think of it this way: if it had been a child, yes the parent would have been punished, but it's entirely possible - and legal - that this person have another child in the future.
What's done is done and it's horrible that those babies suffered, but let's focus on rehabilitating the offender at this point with the hope that she never, ever does something like this again.
(News Herald - Jan 9, 2017)