OHIO -- Goddard’s Law made certain animal cruelty crimes felonies. Erica Petro was charged with felonies, then is allowed to plead to misdemeanors.
The first person in Lake County to be charged under a new law that makes certain animal-cruelty cases felony offenses has had her charges reduced to misdemeanors.
Erica Petro, a 32-year-old homeless woman, was arrested Sept. 23 after Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies received an anonymous 911 call to check on three kittens left inside a white Kia Spectra parked at St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church on Johnnycake Ridge Road in Concord Township.
Deputy Donovan Buchs and Sheriff’s Lt. Todd MenMuir got to the scene 8 minutes after receiving the call and found the locked car parked in the 82-degree heat with all the windows up and no people inside.
They saw a small animal cage propped up on the passenger seat. There were three flea-infested kittens inside the cage and all of them were exposed to the sunlight. They appeared to be suffering seizures as they were foaming at the mouth and twitching.
The car was locked and deputies were required to force their way into the car to help the kittens.
The inside of the car was extremely hot (a video clip says the temperature was in the 80s and inside the car it was over 100 degrees). They removed the animals from sun exposure and poured bottles of water over them to cool them down.
Two of the kittens responded to the aid as their body temperatures started dropping, but the other one wasn't responding.
In a video clip, they described the third kitten as "screaming and crying and flopping around having seizures".
Deputies called Caroline's Kids, an animal rescue service, for assistance. The kittens, which were in critical condition, were taken to Lake Animal Hospital in Painesville for medical treatment.
Two of the three-month-old kittens survived, but the third kitten couldn't stop having seizures and didn't recover at the vet's office and died.
|The two surviving kittens. The third kitten died a horrific|
death of being cooked to death from the inside out
at the hands of ERICA PETRO
Petro told deputies when she was arrested at the scene that she was having trouble "attending to her own needs". She also said she was seeking help at the church and didn’t know she was putting the kittens in harm’s way.
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 Dec. 5 to three misdemeanor cruelty to companion animals charges in Lake County Common Pleas Court. Each count is a second-degree misdemeanor, which carry a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail.
Petro, who is being represented by the county Public Defender’s Office, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 9 by Judge Richard L. Collins Jr.
Lake County Prosecutor Charles Coulson said a pre-sentence report has been ordered in the case. He added that it would be premature to comment further before sentencing.
Petro remains free after posting 10 percent of a $5,000 bond.
What is it like to be locked inside a hot car?
(News Herald - Dec 7, 2016)