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July 30, 2018 - 8:02pm

'Maya' recovering at animal shelter while former owner makes first court appearance on neglect charge

posted by Billie Owens in animal abuse, animal neglect, notify, news, batavia, crime.

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       Becky L. Frens

A Pearl Street Road resident accused of neglecting her 3-year-old female dog appeared briefly in Town of Batavia Court this afternoon.

Shortly after 1 p.m., Becky L. Frens approached the bench of Judge Michael Cleveland flanked by her attorney Michael Ranzenhofer.

The senator with 38 years of legal expertise is a partner in the law firm Friedman & Ranzenhofer PC, with eight offices in Western New York, including one on Main Street in Batavia.

Ranzenhofer cited unspecified "complications" and asked for a delay in the case. The people, represented by Assistant District Attorney Robert Zickl, told the judge they are ready to proceed in the matter.

Cleveland granted Ranzenhofer's request for a delay and the next court appearance for 56-year-old Frens is set for 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 27.

Today, Frens looked a lot different than the photo taken July 10 following her arrest by troopers from the Batavia Barracks of the State Police after she went to the Genesee County Animal Shelter to retrieve her dog.

She is charged with overdriving, torturing and injuring an animal; and failure to provide proper sustenance under the state Agriculture & Markets law, Article 26, Section 353, which is a Class A misdemeanor. (Find the section in Ag & Markets law here.)

If found guilty, a defendant faces jail time of more than 15 days but not greater than one year. In addition, a fine of up to $1,000 can be imposed.

Frens was dressed in a solid blue, A-line knit top, three-quarter-sleeved with lacy cut-outs, mid-calf black capris, and delicately embossed, pale blue slides. Her medium brown tresses looked freshly curled and hung well past her shoulders. She wore eyeglasses.

Looking only slightly better today was Frens' former pet, a Labrador retriever mixed breed named Maya, which happens to be Sanskrit for "create."

The dog still has a long road ahead.

Volunteers walked her out for a visitor at the Animal Shelter at about 2 o'clock.

Animal Control Officer Ann Marie Brady said when Maya was brought in "she was able to walk, but the length of her nails was so long, that she was not able to walk on concrete or tiles, which is what we have at the shelter, until her nails were cut. With the long nails and the shape of her pads, it was painful.

"She has some genetic issues and some splayed tendons. She doesn't have much muscle mass; she can't stand the heat. When she first came here, she couldn't exercise for any length of time. 

"She was very thin and she is still gaunt. Very underweight, you can see her hips. Since she's been getting treatment, she's put on a few pounds. But we don't want her to put on a lot of weight yet, so it's a constant battle of weighing her, adjusting her feed. The Volunteers for Animals help monitor her and give her special feed. They take her to the vet and pay for the vet bills. 

"She has open sores on her body, bacterial infections, fungal infections. She has several infections we are getting under control. She has demodectic mange, which is in everyone's system, but when the immune system becomes compromised, it goes haywire."

On top of all that, she is nearly 90 percent deaf now because of chronic, heretofore untreated infections in both ears. There is a lot of scar tissue in her ears as a result. She can hear a whistle, but not much else. 

Maya's eyesight was also impaired. She could not see a hand held out with a treat in front of her face -- at least not at first -- she kept missing it with her muzzle. But after three weeks of some decent nutrition and medical control of her infections, she can find the hand in front of her nose.

She's not as stinky. She can manage to jump onto the seated lap of a volunteer these days; a feat that she could not do only a couple of weeks ago.

And despite everything, "she's always happy to see us," said volunteer Lynette Celedonia.

Maya belongs to the shelter and it will hold onto her until she is healthy enough to find a home -- food, water, walkies, treats, mercy, humaneness, decency.

The woman who initially found Maya is seriously considering adopting her, although, with the interest in Maya's story, Christina Homer-Roviso is sure there will be many contenders.

Homer-Roviso said she never had a clue the neighbors across from her sister-in-law's house had a dog. Then came the day earlier this month when Maya was standing across the road looking pathetic.

Homer-Roviso coaxed her across the asphalt in order to help her and she said "watching her try to walk was hard." 

"Oh, my gosh, that dog was starving," said the sister-in-law, Lynne D. Homer. "We gave her two bowls of cat food, some baloney, and sausage; she drank three bottles of water."

"She was missing patches of fur, was (in) really, really bad (condition). ... Someone like (Frens) should not have a freakin' animal and to live in a house like that," said a visibly shaken Homer-Roviso, fighting back tears.

Frens lives in a 3,236-square-foot Colonial built in 2002. The four-bedroom, two-bath custom-built home also has two outbuildings and sits on 11.7 acres. The assessed value is $283,400.

"I own five dogs, horses, goats, chickens, and cats. I tell my kids 'You can go get food and water. These animals can't. You have to do that for them.' "

For previous coverage, click here.

Photos by Howard Owens.

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Kyle Slocum
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"Frens was dressed in a solid blue, A-line knit top, three-quarter-sleeved with lacy cut-outs, mid-calf black capris, and delicately embossed, pale blue slides. Her medium brown tresses looked freshly curled and hung well past her shoulders. She wore eyeglasses."

Is this the fashion section? I am sure that there is somewhere some person who actually give a single something, something about what this woman is wearing. I am equally sure that there is some person, somewhere, who will take offense at your describing a woman's dress as it MUST be a sign of your misogyny. You failed to describe the dress of the judge or her lawyer, after all. Why was that? J' Accuse! and all that nonsense.

What I cannot for the life of me understand is why you felt it necessary to describe the clothing worn by a person in the news. Unless it was extremely unusual, or relevant to her offense, how in the world is it worthy of line inches? Don't BE the stereotype.

Howard B. Owens
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I take it you've never read Billie's court reporting before, Kyle.

It's factual. It's accurate. It describes something of the person. Nothing wrong with that. Good writing includes capturing details.

Kyle Slocum
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Describing the clothing of a person is a way of judging them. If they are poor, their clothing is a statement of that fact. If they are un-stylish, it is declaration their inferiority compared to the stylish folk. If they wear the fashion of their identity group it is a sign of their separateness. It is but one of many ways in which people who desperately need to feel superior put the other in their place.

It has no place in the dispassionate reporting of news.

Howard B. Owens
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Without granting the faulty premise that reporting should be dispassionate, it’s just the facts.

Reporters since the days of the penny press, reporters have described such things. You’re bucking against 150 years of a pretty basic reportorial tool.

Billie Owens
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Kyle, good reporting has NEVER been "dispassionate" -- that's a myth. Good reporting ought to require that the reporter employ all their senses to report a story based on the facts observed and heard to the best of their abilities.

I am not a robot. I go to court and try to relay what happens to whom and what is said.

It is my prerogative. I typically report how the defendant appears, what their friends in the gallery wear, what their appearance and demeanor are before a judge.

I've done it for years, for both males and females. I am not going to stop reporting what I see and hear.

Robots cannot do my job, nor Howard's. FYI...

Billie Owens
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P.S. Kyle, pay attention to the substance, the point of the story. Does this give you any pause?

Rich Richmond
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I for one appreciate the detail, thank you. Keep writing as you do. It is very common for an accused person to clean up for a court date to make a good impression. Many times their appearance is diametric from the time of their arrest.

Kyle Slocum
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Billie and Howard, I think I have made my position on this clear and I appreciate your responses. This is one of my longstanding pet peeves. Not specific to your work but to the entire industry.

But, guess what? I am not the owner or editor of The Batavian. Your publication: Your stylebook. You do this the way that you know works and how you want it done. That is one of the benefits you get for all the headaches that you have.

Daniel Norstrand
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Kyle you fail to take into account that half the readers are women. It was somewhat tedious for me to read also but I think what Billie was getting at is that the accused doesn't seem to be in dire straits. Same with the description of the home. Indigence would be a reasonable approach to a defense. I have no doubt that Billie, as well as the vast majority of us observing the story, have strong feelings about the treatment of the animal. We do need to keep in mind that the accused seems to have some serious problems that need attention also. If that's not the case, throw the book at her! Either way she should be sentenced at least partially to community service at the shelter. Supervised of course.

Mary Linsenbigler
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I do not normally comment on these things but this time I feel i must. This woman is my friend. She is a wonderful person who would and has helped many. There are so many details missing from this article that would paint a much different picture of Becky Frens than the one that is being painted of her. Other than the very miniscule details of how her hair was curled or the value of the home that she lives in. Are you suggesting that she has alot of money because of the house she lives in or the way her hair is curled? Perhaps trying to make it look like she has alot of money and simply did not take care of her dog? Is that really the correct way to report a story? Do you ever get both sides of it or just the side you prefer? Does it ever bother you that you hurt people and their families because you do not report everything, only the information you choose so that you can decide how the public will react and then treat people. I'm sorry if I sound as though I am bashing your work. I am sure you work hard and do your best. However, innocent people are getting hurt by the one sided reporting and that is just not right.

Candace Bower
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I do not really give a flying Crap what she looked like. The dog was suffering....that is the important thing. They is a special place in Hell for people like this. I am the one who adopts them after you abuse them.

Billie Owens
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Mary, most attorneys do not let their clients talk to the media on court day. Her side of the story will, possibly, reveal itself if the court case goes to trial. This was the first court appearance and I stand by my reporting. Describing defendants -- their dress, their stance, their mannerisms, their speech -- is all part of reportage. Anybody on her side who has a story to tell is welcome to contact me. My email is [email protected]

And Candace, I know what the point of the story is and it's "writ large" -- the additional details in my opinion do not detract from that; they are not put in place of something else. They add color.

People who don't want to read the details that I include have choices, too.

Sheila West
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I am glad that the Batavian is reporting on this regardless of how many details. Maya is the victim. Maya is the one who suffered. I pray that Mays gets a good home and all the love and care she deserves. Pray for Maya. She couldn't help herself and wasn't being helped where she was or else this wouldn't be happening right now. Animals and children need to be nurtured and cared for. I don't care what happens to the family who had her, I care what happens to Maya and pray for her healing. She will go to a good home. She just needs time to heal.

Howard B. Owens
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Thanks for the comment, Shelia.

I'm loathe to pass judgment on a defendant before conviction but the dog I saw at the shelter yesterday didn't get that way by accident. I for one would welcome hearing a reasonable explanation for how Maya wound up undernourished, with mange, and long-term ear infections, and no known medical treatment while suffering. Perhaps there is some reasonable explanation. If there is, I'd like to know what it is. Perhaps Mr. Ranzenhofer would recommend to his client that she provide that explanation.

Maya will be a good pet -- she's a sweet dog -- for somebody once she's healed.

Sheila West
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Howard, I remember when you reported on Rocky a few years back. I also know you adopted Rocky and know that you and your wife gave him a wonderful home. God bless both of you. You know what is important. You know with situations like this, the true victims are the animals.

Brian Graz
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Yep... no bias in this report.

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