Cat ‘sanctuary’ owner charged with animal cruelty is no-show in court

Court documents obtained today by this news outlet indicate Heart’s Rescue Sanctuary was evicted this week from its shopping center location after Middletown Properties Inc. initiated legal proceeding for past-due rent and damages. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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Court documents obtained today by this news outlet indicate Heart’s Rescue Sanctuary was evicted this week from its shopping center location after Middletown Properties Inc. initiated legal proceeding for past-due rent and damages. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Heart’s Rescue Sanctuary was evicted this week from shopping center.

The owner of a cat rescue operation in Middletown did not show up for her scheduled appearance in court Thursday on misdemeanor animal cruelty charges.

Lesli Martin, 51, owner of Heart's Rescue Sanctuary on Breiel Boulevard, was scheduled to be in municipal court at 9 a.m. on six counts of cruelty to companion animals, but did not appear.

A bench warrant was initially issued for the arrest of Martin, but was later withdrawn.

Martin is now being represented by attorney Paris Ellis. A new court date of Jan. 24 has been set for a pre-trial hearing.

Ellis declined to comment Thursday about the case.

On Nov. 30, the Butler County Dog Warden's Office and deputies served a search warrant at the storefront in Middletown Shopping Center, where they found 49 felines. Seized from the shelter were 28 cats that were sick and injured, according to court documents.

Five of the cats that were removed had to be euthanized, according to the sheriff’s office.

Shortly after charges were filed against Martin, she said she was declining comment at the advise from her attorney, but in social media posts suggested the animal cruelty charges were not true.

Municipal Court Prosecutor Ashley Bretland said there has been no paper work filed in the case by an attorney on Martin’s behalf.

Court documents obtained Thursday by this news outlet indicate the Heart’s Rescue Sanctuary was evicted this week from the shopping center location after Middletown Properties Inc. initiated legal proceeding for past-due rent and damages.

Investigation of Heart's Rescue Sanctuary fist began in early August, according to a search warrant obtained earlier by this news outlet.

On Aug. 3, the dog warden’s office began an investigation after receiving a complaint alleging about 40 t0 50 sick and injured cats were inside the facility on Breiel Boulevard, according to the search warrant.

“Many of the animals were in awful conditions,” Deputy Jamie Hearlihy said in the affidavit for the search warrant. “Open mouth breathing, barely moving, some were leaking stool and had discharge around the nose and eyes.”

The owner was issued a warning and told that all the animals needed to go to the veterinarian. The dog warden and deputies said they would follow up the next week.

Deputies returned to the sanctuary on Aug. 17 with Middletown zoning and the department of health. According to court records, the cats had been taken to a veterinarian but were “still not doing better.”

In addition, more cats were sick, according to the deputies. At that time, Martin was again told to get the cats veterinarian care.

Dog wardens and deputies checked on the cats Aug. 28, Sept. 12, Sept. 19 and Sept. 26. According to deputies, “every time we returned the cats seemed to be getting more sick and injured.”

The cats taken from Heart’s Rescue Sanctuary are currently in treatment at Animal Friends Humane Society.

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