Seized rescue center birds to stay in shelter

Prosecutors and the defense attorney for Wings Over the Rainbow have agreed to allow more than 100 exotic birds to remain in an emergency shelter until the defense can bring in its own veterinarian to examine them.

The defense has until Aug. 7 to have the birds examined, according to the agreement struck Thursday afternoon in a closed-door session with Judge Robert L. Moore of Kettering Municipal Court.

In addition, prosecutors must provide evidentiary discovery by July 31 in the animal cruelty case against Deborah Shell, founder of the Moraine-based bird rescue group, said defense attorney Dennis Lieberman.

The hearing was prompted by Lieberman’s motion to stop the Humane Society of Greater Dayton from taking over ownership of the birds and to preserve the animals as evidence in the criminal case.

Moore had previously set bond at $35,000 to release the birds and ordered that if the Wings group was unable to pay the full bond amount by July 5, the birds would go to the humane society. The Wings group was unable to raise the full bond amount.

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Lieberman said that after the Aug. 7 deadline, the birds may be placed with other sanctuaries or otherwise disposed of, but they must still be available to be presented as evidence at trial.

Prosecutors assert that Shell neglected the birds that were in her care, said Jeffrey Holland, special prosecutor appointed by the humane society.

Holland said he has worked with other humane societies across the state in prosecuting animal cruelty cases. He is teamed with Moraine City Prosecutor Kent Depoorter in the case against Shell.

Humane officials have stated that the birds suffered sickness and mental duress from living in poor conditions at the Wings facility.

If convicted, Shell could be sentenced up to a maximum of 18 months in prison, Holland said.

“I have dealt with many cases like this,” Holland said. “Many of these individuals start with good intentions, but they don’t do the responsible thing. Animals are the only kind of personal property that Ohio law requires you to be responsible to care for on a daily basis.”

The legal battle is more tangled as Shell filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday through another attorney, Paul Leonard, against the Humane Society of Greater Dayton and its CEO and president, Brian Weltge.

The suit seeks the return of the 139 birds seized in the May 10 raid.

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