Laura Shenk
Laura Shenk (Courtesy Photo)

A Carroll judge ruled that seven dogs seized from their owner should not be returned at the conclusion of a replevin hearing Friday that has stretched over more than a year.

Visiting Judge Alice Clark ruled that the right to possess the animals should not revert to plaintiff Laura Shenk, meaning the dogs will remain under the care of the defendant, the Humane Society of Carroll County.


The dogs were seized from Shenk’s property by Animal Control in February and March 2017.

Clark said it was made clear during the hearing that the animals were “clearly suffering from abuse and neglect” at the time of seizure and it was appropriate for Animal Control to remove them from Shenk’s care. Clark said Shenk showed an “attitude” of knowing better than veterinary professionals and not understanding the severity of symptoms of illness.

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Shenk’s attorney Scott Swafford commented after the hearing that they planned to appeal the decision.

The plaintiff also requested that the court order the Humane Society to halt further disposition of the dogs pending an appeal. Defense attorney Gail Kessler requested a bond to provide for the care of the animals at the Humane Society. Karen Baker, executive director of the Humane Society, estimated $500 for each dog or $3,500 total.

Clark chose to impose a $5,000 bond.

Baker issued a statement by email following Friday’s proceedings, saying she was “elated” with Clark’s decision.

“Today’s ruling will allow us to continue to provide a safe and healthy environment for the dogs. From the beginning we believed in the merits of this case. We would like to thank Judge Clark for her careful consideration of this matter. County Attorney Gail Kessler put on an indomitable case and articulated a tremendous amount of evidence to the court. Animal Control officers and the sheriff’s department responded to a difficult situation with the utmost professionalism.

“We would also like to thank our animal care staff, our partner veterinarians, and volunteers who have worked tirelessly rehabilitating the dogs. The Humane Society of Carroll County will continue its dedication to the compassionate treatment of animals,” she wrote.

Swafford expressed frustration with the way the hearing was conducted.

“The way this has panned out has been a nightmare,” he said.

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He said the legal burden should not have been shifted to Shenk and should have remained on the Humane Society to prove that returning the dogs would lead to abuse or medical problems.

He also questioned why the judge had issued a gag order on his client during the case when there was no jury, which he said was an issue of freedom of speech.

He took issue that Clark had not admitted into evidence the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office’s decision not to pursue animal cruelty charges asked for by Animal Control, which he felt was “highly relevant” to the case.

He also said it was “ridiculous” that the judge set the bond for the animals higher than was asked.