Punishment Considered In Animal Cruelty CasePosted: Updated:
Ella Stewart was originally charged with one count of Animal Cruelty in the Second Degree. This was a result of a citation issued by Deputy Scott Runge of the Benton County Sheriff's Office when he went to Ella Stewart's residence on an unrelated manner.
Deputy Runge's citation led to a lengthy investigation including service of three search warrants and the seizure of 369 dogs. During the investigation, it became clear that additional charges were needed. The Prosecutor's Office and Sheriff's Office agreed that a charging decision should be made after the investigation was done and police and veterinary reports were completed.
On June 24, 2009, the Prosecutor's Office met with representatives of the Benton County Sheriff's Office, including Sheriff Larry Taylor, Angela Zilar of the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter, Veterinarian Charles Coleman and Inga Gibson and Sherry Ramsey of the Humane Society of the United States. This meeting was to decide what charges would be appropriate to hold the defendant accountable for the harm to the dogs while giving some consideration to her voluntary surrender of the dogs so that they could be adopted out in a timely manner. The defendant's voluntary surrender instead of a contested court hearing allowed for much sooner needed treatment and care for the dogs.
The meeting resulted in a consensus that Ella Stewart should be charged with one count of Cruelty to Animals in the First Degree, A Class C Felony, and nine counts of Cruelty to Animals in the Second Degree. Arraignment is scheduled for Thursday, July 9, 2009, at 8:30 a.m.