The Hampstead man charged with animal cruelty and related crimes in the case of the “Black Rock Dogs” has had at least one run-in with animal control officials and had been named in a lawsuit relating to puppies he had purchased in part just last month.
John J. Roberts, 49, and Laura S. Filler, 55, were each charged with 51 counts and are being held without bond in Carroll County. Online court records indicate they’re being represented by the Office of the Public Defender, which has not responded to a request for comment.
They’re charged in a case in which a total of 27 dead dogs were found in conditions described as “the most extreme filth” in a home and shed at 4302 Black Rock Road in Hampstead. The dead dogs were described as being in “various stages of decomposition,” and some of the 27 surviving dogs, which were rescued, did not have access to food or water.
It’s not the first time, though, that Roberts has had documented legal issues related to caring for and possessing animals.
In August 2011, the Baltimore County Animal Hearing Board found that Roberts needed to provide veterinary care for a dog because it was allowed to continue nursing for too long and had damaged nipples from puppies whose teeth had grown in. The dog had nine pups with teeth nursing from it at the property on Black Rock Road.
During his hearing, a hearing board member said Roberts should “become better educated about the veterinary care required for breeding dogs.”
He was fined $100, but appealed the decision and a judge in Baltimore County ultimately dismissed the case in January 2014, citing lack of jurisdiction and the fact that a year had passed since the original issuance.
In early March, a breeder from Wisconsin sued Roberts and Filler in civil court, saying they have not completed payments on three puppies they purchased in 2016.
Roberts “had one excuse after the other,” for not paying the bill, said Sandra Reed, the complainant in the case. She filed the lawsuit before Roberts and Filler were charged; she now says she is more concerned about the well-being of her animals.
“It’s not even the money. I need to know if they’re in safe hands,” Reed said. “My puppies are like my kids.”
A representative from the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office said the office was still gathering information and working the case, and thus could not comment.
Roberts and Filler both have hearings scheduled for May 3.
How to help
The 27 dogs rescued from the home on Black Rock Road were initially all in the care of the Humane Society of Carroll County; at least one has been returned to his prior owners, and executive director Karen Baker said there is an ongoing process of connecting dogs with prior owners.
“It is all hands on deck. Every staff member is here. Volunteers, I can’t keep track of the numbers right now. We have volunteers sorting donations for us and making sure the dogs have enrichment toys,” Baker said Wednesday.
Baker said the dogs are not ready to be adopted or fostered, and the Humane Society will post that information if and when it is available. She also said that for the time being, only trained volunteers will be getting hands-on time with the dogs, and volunteers are needed for things like sorting donations.
Donations to the Humane Society can also be made online at https://hscarroll.org/donate/.