2 Butler County animal cruelty cases, 2 declined felony indictments by grand juries

For the second time this year, a Butler County grand jury declined to indict a Butler County man charged with felony animal cruelty.

A Madison Twp. man charged with felony animal cruelty wasn’t indicted by a Butler County grand jury last week, according to the Butler County prosecutor.

In June, a Butler County grand jury declined to indict David Neanover, 36, of Reily Twp., on the fifth-degree felony and sent the case back to county Area I Court for litigation on three misdemeanor charges: two counts of cruelty to companion animals, one a first-degree misdemeanor and the other a second-degree misdemeanor.

Charles Miller, 60, of Elk Creek Road, was arrested Aug. 6 after the charge against him was raised from misdemeanor to fifth-degree felony. He is accused of hitting a neighbor’s dog on Aug. 5 after he said the dog was in his chicken coop, then attacked him. The dog, a German Shepherd named Ruger, was later euthanized.

Earlier this month, Middletown Municipal Court Judge James Sherron found probable cause that Miller committed cruelty to a companion animal, so the case was bound over to a grand jury.

Miller had appeared in Middletown court at least twice, and both times there was a large presence of protesters. After Sherron sent the case to a grand jury, Kevin Foster, the dog owner’s father, hinted there could be violence among neighbors on the Madison Twp. street where the incident took place.

Foster didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Miller’s attorney Thomas Manning said the testimony to the grand jury confirmed Miller was “acting in defense of himself and his property when this incident occurred.”

Manning said this “unfortunate situation” has caused emotions in the community to run high.

“Sadly, many have inappropriately expressed their emotions by making threats to the safety of both Mr. Miller and his wife Debi, who was not involved in this situation in any way,” Manning said in a statement. “The Millers were forced to obtain a five-year protection order against Skyler Foster’s father Kevin in the Butler County Common Pleas Court, which was upheld when Mr. Foster failed to show up for the review hearing to contest the allegations against him.”

Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser said the grand jury considered one witness and “that particular witness had no fur or feathers in the game.” Gmoser said the state legislature has passed very specific laws allowing farmers to protect their livestock and poultry.

“Under the law, that cruel intent or cruel purpose is irrelevant,” Gmoser said. “The degree of force is not something that can be measured to determine whether or not there is criminal conduct. I know for the general population and owners and lovers of dogs this is not a very friendly law for their interest but it is the law.”

Gmoser said the problem arose when a veterinarian determined excessive force was used in killing the dog, then told that to the dog warden that led to the charges against Miller.

“The veterinarian simply was wrong in advising it was an overkill, or some type of criminal conduct,” Gmoser said. ”That’s an argument for the legislature it is not an argument for the owner of poultry at this time.”

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