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Couple charged with 21 counts of animal abuse in Lorain

By Michael Sangiacomo • Jul 24, 2018 at 9:00 PM

LORAIN — A Lorain County man and woman were charged with 21 counts of cruelty to companion animals after city police and humane officers took 21 large dogs from an apartment on July 17.

Cornelius Charlton and Lauren Souris, of Kevlar Kennels, pleaded not guilty before Lorain Municipal Court Judge Thomas Elwell to the fifth-degree felonies, each punishable by a maximum of six months to a year in jail and a fine.

Elwell also ruled that the 20 cane corsos and one Brazilian mastiff dogs remain in the care of the Friendship Animal Protective League in Elyria until the case could be resolved.

Lorain Ptl. Rich Broz testified that he and the county humane officer entered the apartment on East 28th Street after one of them crawled through the only window in the building which he said was very small.

“Inside it was extremely hot; it was 95 degrees outside,” he said. “There was no ventilation at all. I would hate to think how hot it was in there during the recent heat wave. The stench of dog urine and feces was overpowering and there were flies everywhere.”

Broz said about half of the large dogs were in reasonably sized cages but some of the others were in cages “so small that they could not stand up.”

He said while they were in the building, one of the cage doors fell open and a large dog bit him on the leg. He said he didn’t blame the dog, who was frightened.

Broz said he was met at the scene by Charlton and Souris who initially helped them remove the dogs, but stopped after the first five were loaded into vans.

“Souris stopped and told us ‘have fun loading the rest,’” Broz said. “They said that they had a nice place in the country that they lost and were forced to house the animals in Lorain as an emergency.”

The building is a former dry cleaner and isn’t licensed to be a kennel, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Lorraine Coyne asked the judge to release the animals back to the couple pending the completion of the case.

Elwell refused and ordered the defendants to take out a bond to pay for the care and feeding of the 21 dogs staying at the Friendship APL.

Broz and APL Humane Officer Denise Willis testified that the dogs had skin problems caused by fleas that included fur loss. Other dogs had problems with their eyes or ears.

“I went in and found the conditions inside deplorable,” Willis testified. “The stench was so strong it burned my eyes.”

Broz noted that a dog’s sense of smell is much stronger than a human and said the stench must have affected the dogs even more.

After the hearing Charlton and Souris left the courtroom and shouted “no comment” to reporters seeking an interview.

The Kevlar website says they aren’t a “puppy mill” and that they are committed to the “preservation of our rare and magnificent breed.” Further, the website says, “All of our dogs have top pedigrees with excellent health, structure, type and correct temperament.” The site says they were located in Olmsted Township at that time.

A pre-trial hearing in the case is scheduled at 1 p.m. Aug. 10 before Lorain Municipal Judge Mark Mihok.

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