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OPINION: Due process often neglects animal victims

By Joanne Beck

Cassandra Elmore — charged with three counts of animal abuse and/or torture — deserves her day in court, and it’s too bad she didn’t take advantage of that for the second time.

Charged after her dog was found to have overdosed on some type of narcotics three times, Elmore, 30, was granted an extension during her brief appearance on July 26 after requesting time to obtain her own attorney. She agreed to the terms and was warned that a warrant would be issued if she didn’t show up. The case was to be at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 11 in City Court, and Elmore was a no-show.

A warrant was issued, but apparently it didn't reach the Batavia Police Department, and Elmore was given another court date for today, Sept. 8. Once again, she did not show, and a warrant was issued again. Meanwhile, Elmore was recently charged after a traffic stop on Aug. 30 with criminal possession of a weapon, obstruction of governmental administration, aggravated unlicensed operation 3rd, uninspected motor vehicle, and insufficient tail lamps.

Elmore was allegedly driving on a suspended license. During a search of the vehicle, she was allegedly found in possession of two sets of metal knuckles as well as various items of drug equipment.  Elmore was processed at Batavia PD headquarters and released on an appearance ticket. 

While people may have mixed feelings about the case, and a final decision has yet to be made, there is one true victim: Oddey, the dog diagnosed as having ingested narcotics to the point of overdose.

Elmore has been free during this time, however, Oddey was remanded to Genesee County Animal Shelter more than two months ago. If that doesn't seem like a long time, imagine your own pet being at a shelter with people and surroundings that are unfamiliar to the pooch. Sort of ironic that the accused criminal is free while the victim sits behind bars.

Nothing against the shelter or the dedicated animal control officers and volunteers that work with the animals there, but Oddey was apparently, and quite likely accidentally, drugged, and now must wait out his fate at a strange place. No doubt, staff and volunteers are treating him well, but it's got to be confusing at the very least. 

This may not seem at all atypical of a victim’s plight upon waiting for a court case to finish  — suffering more repercussions than the perpetrator — but it still remains unclear whether this canine will go to another home or be returned to Elmore.

That’s often the forgotten part in these stories: what about the animal victim? Shelter volunteer Wendy Castleman has said that Oddey is doing well, which is great to know. However, he can't be sent to a foster home or put up for adoption while the legal case against Elmore is pending, or until she surrenders ownership.

Hopefully there will be a really good-news story at the very end. Just as Elmore has deserved the benefit of doubt up to now, Oddey deserves his own due process to relax in a safe, comfortable and loving home.


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