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Animal cruelty case causing big bills

Dogs in limbo as trial date for Fremont woman on hold

FREMONT — The case of a Fremont woman charged with 36 counts of animal cruelty has languished in the court system for more than a year, leaving 10 of the seized dogs in limbo and the humane society with thousands of dollars in bills for their care.

Susan G. Baker, 69, was charged Aug. 10, 2011, after authorities say they removed 35 dogs, three cats, and a cockatoo from her home on July 29, 2011.

Authorities described the animals as neglected and filthy.

The case has been slowed in part, because Ms. Baker has changed attorneys multiple times. Officials at the Humane Society of Sandusky County say they are becoming increasingly frustrated because they cannot adopt out the 10 remaining dogs because Ms. Baker refuses to surrender their ownership.

The dogs are in foster homes, where residents have expressed interest in adoption, but they are unable because the dogs are caught in legal limbo.

The case was set for a pretrial conference on Wednesday, but Ms. Baker's current attorney, Edward Rhode III, of Sandusky, who took over the case in May, asked for a continuance.

Ms. Baker and Mr. Rhode could not be reached for comment.

Assistant Prosecutor Norman Solze, who is handling the case, did not respond to calls or emails asking why the case has been delayed.

Prosecutor Thomas Stierwalt responded in an email Wednesday evening, saying he could not comment because Mr. Solze had not returned to the office yet.

"He has the Baker file with him and I therefore am not able to review it to determine why the case has not yet been resolved," Mr. Stierwalt wrote in the email.

"The only information currently available to me is from the court's online docket. The docket entry of March 14, 2012, indicates that Assistant Prosecutor [Tinisha] Ollom requested that the matter be set for trial."

Meanwhile, the Humane Society of Sandusky County has spent more than $10,000 on the care of the animals that includes more than $5,000 owed to Fremont Animal Hospital, said Joanne McDowell, president of the Humane Society of Sandusky County's board,

Kelly Askins, an animal cruelty investigator with the humane society, was not notified by the prosecutor's office of the pretrial but did receive notification that it had been canceled.

Ms. Askins said she was frustrated that so much time had passed with so little progress being made to resolve the case.

"I'm sick about this; it's very nearly closed our shelter," said Ms. Askins.

She said the dogs are in limbo because Ms. Baker refuses to surrender ownership, likely because she hopes to get them back and start breeding them again.

"That's my number one thing is to make sure she can never own animals again," Ms. Askins said. "It's obvious from the shape the animals were in that they had been like this for years, not the several months that she claims she had been ill."

Sandusky County sheriff's deputies were dispatched to Ms. Baker's home that day after another woman called 911 to report that someone seemed to be in distress at the Baker residence. Authorities found Ms. Baker unconscious in a chair, surrounded by the animals, many of which were sick or covered in feces.

One of the dogs in limbo, now called Sweetie Pie by her foster family, had to have surgery for cancer, which cost more than $1,500.

Fund-raising efforts were held to pay for the surgery, but the family is not able to adopt him, since he is still officially the property of Ms. Baker.

Those interested in making a donation to the Humane Society can do so online by going to and clicking on donate in the upper right hand corner of the Web page.

Donations also can be mailed to 2520 Port Clinton Rd., Fremont OH 43420.

Contact Tanya Irwin at: or 419-724-6066.

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