Dog warden was found in favor by judge

LISBON — The Columbiana County dog warden acted within the legal limits of her job after she removed 10 dogs from a Rogers home in April 2017.

So ruled Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge Megan Bickerton, in a decision handed down on July 25. “There are no facts presented to the court that the defendant was acting outside the scope of her employment or official responsibilties,” she wrote.

The lawsuit was filed last year by Christine Grace after dog pound officials showed up at her home to check into a complaint received that her dogs were living in unsuitable conditions and inadequately cared for. The investigation resulted in 10 of their 12 Chihuahuas being seized, with the other two left behind at Grace’s request.

Dog warden Heidi Pecorelli and the deputy dog warden showed up and asked to be let inside. Grace denied them permission, but her husband relented after reportedly being threatened.

Based on what was seen, the dogs were seized after Pecorelli convinced the husband to sign the “owner relinquishment form.” Grace said he only agreed to after Pecorelli threatened to take legal action, which could result of the permanent loss of their pets.

The lawsuit was seeking $25,000-plus in damages.

According to court documents, Pecorelli said they could smell the odor of urine and feces before entering the home.

Once inside, she observed stacks of boxes, clothing and dishes, along with trash, animal feces and what was believed to be urine stains. A portion of ceiling was found to have fallen down or torn out.

Based on this information, the decision was made to remove the dogs.

The county filed a motion arguing that Pecorelli was immune from being successfully sued as long as she was acting in her official capacity as dog warden and did not abuse that discretion.

As stated above, Bickerton did not find that Pecorelli had acted outside the limits of her official duties.

“The plaintiff has not established any fact of the defendant that would be an exception to the defendant’s immunity as acting in her ‘official capacity’ or her personally as an employee of Columbiana County,” Bickerton said, in issuing a summary judgment in favor of the county.