Judge upholds ruling to return dogs

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By April Wright, Reporter

Dismissal of a civil case was upheld Wednesday against a Carroll County dog kennel owner whose 63 dogs were seized by the state last month.

Carroll Circuit Judge Brett Geisler ruled that a lower court had acted properly when it dismissed the case against David Winesett of Coulson Church Road, who once served as Carroll’s chief dog warden.

The dogs had been in the care of the Angels of Assisi animal rescue group in Roanoke after their confiscation by Virginia State Police due to what authorities called “deplorable” conditions.

The organization had held the dogs pending Wednesday’s ruling in the appeal that was brought by the state regarding custody of the animals.

Judge Tom Frith had previously dismissed the civil case in Carroll General District Court on grounds that the state missed its 10-day time limit to schedule the hearing in district court.

After the judge refused to hear the case for that reason, the matter was appealed to Carroll Circuit Court.

Assistant Attorney General Rob Bryden told the court Wednesday that prosecutors made a good-faith effort to get a hearing scheduled within the legal time frame. However, because of the Thanksgiving holiday and other factors through the clerk’s office, prosecutors were not able to secure a date.

Bryden argued the law states a hearing “shall” be held, and that other courts have determined “shall” to mean “any.”

Bryden cited juvenile cases that involved the same issue, and which were not dismissed by a court.

Del. Terry Kilgore, Winesett’s attorney, said the court should adhere to the 10-day rule: “This country is built on due process. It is a case that should have been heard in no more than 10 business days.

“[Winesett’s] property has been taken from him without due process, and he has the right to go into court with a date set within the time frame, but that didn’t occur. They must follow the rules.”

Judge Geisler ruled that Winesett’s rights were violated because he was denied the window of 10 business days.

“I don’t know why it didn’t happen before, but that’s not my concern,” Geisler said.

With the dismissal, the dogs are expected to soon be returned to Winesett.

A Carroll magistrate signed off on a search warrant on the Winesett property last month so that authorities could look for animals that had the appearance of abuse, neglect, malnourishment or being mistreated.

Angels of Assisi members took the dogs for treatment of damaged nails, decayed teeth, infected ears, and paw and other injuries.

Winesett and Kilgore said he would have worked to correct any conditions at his kennels if the concerns had been brought to him first, instead of through a complaint to state police.

The state attorney general's office has 21 days to appeal the decision to the Virginia Supreme Court. Carroll County Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Goad has not determined if Winesett will face criminal charges.