Fries hearing on animal abuse charges postponed

PAT FRIDGEN
The four Siberian Huskies of Ralph and Susan Fries have been housed in private kennels at Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter since April 23, as per state regulations. They are exercised daily and await their fate for a permanent home.

After waiting 2 1/2 hours as other cases entered the courtroom of Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Shawn Meyers ahead of them, Ralph and Susan Fries of Shady Grove, Humane Society Officer Floyd "Buck" Hessler, their attorneys and witnesses, learned Nov. 18 that the Fries' appeal hearing on animal abuse charges would be continued to Jan. 27. The morning docket had run long so the judge and attorneys agreed to the continuance.

On July 26 the Fries' were found guilty by Magisterial District Judge Duane Cunningham of eight counts of animal cruelty. After receiving a report from a neighbor, Hessler obtained a warrant, entered their home at 1704 Buchanan Trail E. April 23 and seized their four Siberian Huskies. They were taken to Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter. During the summary trial Hessler submitted photos of unsanitary conditions. The couple was fined $200 per citation, ordered to permanently surrender the dogs and pay costs related to their care. At that time the fines and restitution were $8,000.

The Fries filed an appeal in August. Their attorney, Jeffrey A. Conrad from Lancaster, said the appeal in county court was "de novo".

"It's all or nothing," he said. "That's the difference. This judge can hear suppression issues, while a district judge can't. That's the key. I'll be arguing search and seizure issues, that the warrant was deficient, and suppression of evidence."

Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Gerard Mangieri, representing the Humane Society, said he thought the rescheduled hearing would take two hours, and that Conrad was likely going to file a motion for a different date.

One witness, Dr. Carolyn Lazzaris from Best Friends Animal Hospital, Chambersburg, had taken the day off work to testify. Jamie Kasarda, director of CVAS, accompanied her.

"I want to see the dogs get into a home," Kasarda said. "We were hoping to go back with good news."

As of that day, the fees for the dogs, male Skye, and females Mariah, Jazzy and Alice, were $13,262.35, said Hessler. That included kennel costs of $15 per day per dog for room and board, veterinary services, medicine and grooming. The quartet had been in care for 208 days.

"They are attached to the staff and doing well," Kasarda stated. "But they take up valuable kennel space for us because we get a lot of stray dogs in."

The Fries were also in court in April on charges related to care for 70 goats, seven donkeys, a horse and a pony. District Judge David Hawbaker ordered the couple to pay $1,400 and court costs, and give up the animals, which had been kept on a farm in St. Thomas. They became the property of CVAS and were sold at a livestock auction.