Carroll County Times
Carroll County Crime

Hampstead woman pleads guilty to 11 counts of aggravated animal cruelty in Black Rock dogs case

One of two people indicted on 109 counts after 27 dogs were found dead and 27 others were found in squalor at a property on Black Rock Road in Hampstead in April pleaded guilty on Monday.

Laura S. Filler, 56, of the 4300 block of Black Rock Road in Hampstead, pleaded guilty to 11 counts of aggravated animal cruelty in front of the Hon. Fred S. Hecker in the Circuit Court for Carroll County, according to a news release from the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office.


The maximum penalty for each of the 11 felony counts is three years incarceration and/or a fine of $5,000, according to Cara Frieman, special counsel to the State’s Attorney’s Office. The remaining 98 counts, the majority of which were misdemeanors, were not prosecuted, according to electronic court records.

Filler will continue being held without bond at the Carroll County Detention Center until the Jan. 17 sentencing at 1:30 p.m., the release states.


The State’s Attorney’s Office did not offer additional comment outside of the news release. One of Filler’s attorney’s, Janette Deboissiere, of the Carroll County Public Defender’s Office, declined to comment.

Filler and John James Roberts, 49, also of Hampstead, were arrested after animal control officers found 38 dogs, 11 of which were dead, in squalid conditions at the Black Rock Road property April 5. Days later, an additional 16 dogs were found dead there.

Roberts’ trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 18, according to online court records.

In April, Sheriff Jim DeWees was quoted as saying, “This was one of the most disturbing scenes that many of the first responders have ever seen," regarding the Black Rock property.

“As officers approached the home, they smelled an overwhelming odor of decomposition, heard barking and saw dogs inside jumping up against filthy windows,” Monday’s news release states.

They tried to contact someone in the home and were unsuccessful, finding the door was locked from outside.

“Upon opening the door to the home, officers were overwhelmed with the odors of ammonia, decomposition and fecal matter, and were immediately met by numerous dogs,” according to the release. “There was no water or palatable food available for the dogs found on the first floor of the home. Every surface of the home accessed by the dogs was covered in a sludge-like matter, the main floor containing 2-4 inches of sludge, with no clean dry place for any of the dogs to sit or lay down. Damage to the home is estimated to be over $94,000.”

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Filler and Roberts had been renting the home since 2008 and were operating an “unlicensed breeding operation” that Filler referred to as “Black Rock Dalmatians” and “Black Rock Puppies” on social media, according to the release.


Sharon Chiodi, who was listed as the owner of the building, said in April she was cooperating with investigators and had started the eviction process.

“They ruined my house. I’m sick to my stomach,” Chiodi said.

Twenty Dalmatians, five golden retrievers and two English setters were rescued from the home and placed in the care of the Humane Society of Carroll County, Executive Director Karen Baker previously said.

The dogs found dead were buried in a special ceremony June 6 in Baltimore County. Ed Smith, a Carroll County animal control officer who went into the home in Hampstead to rescue and recover the dogs, was at the ceremony.

“We saved 27 dogs that day. Our job is now to bring justice to the dead dogs,” Smith then said, adding he was happy that the 27 rescued dogs had homes now.

The case was investigated by Animal Control Officer Edward Smith, along with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Melissa Hockensmith prosecuted the case, the release states.