Teens guilty of cruelty to animals

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CANFIELD, Ohio – Three young adults plead no contest to one count of cruelty to animals related to an attack of a Mahoning County dairy herd last June. Following a plea agreement Jan. 11 in Mahoning County District Court 5, the teens paid an undisclosed amount in restitution to David and Kathy Moff of Beaver Township to pay for the loss of several dairy animals, lost milk production and other damages.

Patrick Lane, 19, Ryan Stevens, 19, and Ryan Russo, 18, each plead to one count of cruelty to animals, a second-degree misdemeanor, and received a suspended sentence of 90 days in jail, 24 months’ probation, and a $250 fine and court costs.

June attack. Last June, the three teens climbed over a fence and entered the Moffs’ pasture that housed seven bred heifers and 37 cows. With a baseball bat and fluorescent light bulb, they beat and cut several animals. Eight cows had slash wounds, including cuts that ran the length of the cow’s body; eight had broken ribs and/or huge bruises.

In the aftermath of the attack, the Moff herd dropped dramatically in production, from a herd average of 70 pounds of milk per day per cow, to 58 pounds per day. The traumatized herd, normally calm, became quite skittish and nervous. Even at last week’s court date, the Moffs indicated some cows are still edgy.

The Moffs compiled extensive evidence of their herd’s long-term damage and lost income to assist the prosecutor’s office.

Probation, counseling. As part of the agreement, the teens will each be required to complete 120 hours of community service. Judge Scott Hunter said he will request the probation department seek that community service at an agency such as Angels for Animals or the Animal Charity League.

Prior to accepting the plea arrangement, Judge Hunter told the defendants he would only accept the deal if the victims approved it. Hunter then asked the Moffs if they were satisfied with the agreement and they indicated they were.

A misdemeanor count of trespassing was dismissed.

The defendants were also ordered to have no contact with the Moffs and to undergo psychiatric counseling and treatment, including behavior management, if evaluations warrant it.

“Too many people today don’t realize where they’re food comes from,” said David Moff following the hearing. “They think it comes from a grocery store, but it doesn’t. It comes from a farm.”

Pearle Burlingame, organizational director for the Mahoning County Farm Bureau, echoed Moff’s comments. “Farming is a business,” said Burlingame, who also owns a Beaver Township dairy farm. “I hope we get that message out that this won’t be tolerated within the Mahoning County judicial system.”

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