Charges dismissed in animal cruelty case

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 6, 2021

A man accused of 67 counts of animal cruelty has had his case dismissed.

In June, 67 beagles were taken from Ted Spouse’s property on State Route 650 near Ironton by after an investigation by the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office and the humane society officer.

The case was taken to the Ironton Municipal Court on June 29 with Sprouse was charged with 67 counts of animal cruelty, a second-degree misdemeanor.

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On Sept. 30, the case was dismissed.

The initial report came from Pitiful Paws, a non-profit private rescue group in Chesapeake, they were alerted to a dog in need of rescue and after investigating, they decided to approach the dog seller while in plain clothes and did not mention they were part of a rescue group.

They bought two puppies off of the seller.

The group said that one dog was in decent shape while the other would have died if they had left it behind. The seller also threw in an older beagle for free.

They documented everything with their phones and then gave the information to county officials.

The animals were rescued by several groups including Friends of Lawrence County Rescue and Midwest Beagle Rescue, Education and Welfare.

The dogs are now being returned to the owner.

Following the press deadline for the print version of this story, Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson issued the following press release:
“On June 16, 2021, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department along with members of the Lawrence County Humane Society executed a Search Warrant at the home of Ruben T. Sprouse located at 5258 State Route 650, Ironton, Ohio. Upon receiving a report, the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office charged Ruben T. Sprouse with Animal Cruelty under Section 959.13 of the Ohio Revised Code. The decision to charge Mr. Sprouse came upon the information that was available to the prosecutor’s office at the time.
Since filing the charges in Ironton Municipal Court, on June 29, 2021, the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office has continued to conduct an investigation into the treatment of the animals located at Mr. Sprouse’s residence. This investigation included communication and consultation with Lawrence County Animal Shelter employees trained to recognize animal cruelty. The Lawrence county animal officials would have testified that the dogs were not abused and should not have been removed from the residence. The Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office was subsequently provided with photos of each and every dog at the time of their removal and said photos do not support a charge of Animal Cruelty for any animal removed.
A picture which has been circulated on social media and on the internet, shows a small beagle sitting in the front seat of a car, appearing to be emaciated. The prosecutor’s office is in possession of photos and a video of the same dog, taken on the date it was removed from Mr. Sprouse. On that day, the dog’s ribs were not showing and it appeared to be otherwise healthy. We have since learned that certain medications and treatments, such as deworming, can cause a dog to lose weight and show ribs. At the time that the dog was taken from Mr. Sprouse’sproperty, it did not appear in the same condition as it as appears on social media and the Internet.
Once all evidence was obtained, it became clear that the State of Ohio should not go forward with the charges. As Lawrence County Prosecutor, I have the responsibility to review evidence and only seek convictions when supported by sufficient evidence.
Although this decision will be questioned by members of the community, it is my belief based upon all evidence gathered in this case that justice required a dismissal of all charges. As County Prosecutor it is my responsibility to seek truth and justice in each and every case. I will continue to work each day to make Lawrence County a safer and better place to live and work.”