Charges pending after raid by dog warden


Criminal charges are being reviewed after Delaware County Dog Warden Mitchell Garrett removed 40 dogs from a Kingston Township property Sunday.

Garrett conducted a raid on the property at 7474 Kilbourne Road in Kingston Township that resulted in the removal of 40 dogs believed to be mostly pit bulls or pit bull mixes. The raid took about three hours, Garrett said, and was conducted with assistance from the Delaware County Humane Society, the Marion County Dog Warden’s Office, the Morrow County humane agent, and nonprofit group Rico Pet Recovery, who staffed the Delaware County Dog Shelter during the raid.

Garrett spoke at a press conference on Monday and said his office has been aware of the dogs’ owner, Robert Phillips Jr., since he moved to the county in 2020. Garrett said his office received several complaints shortly after Phillips moved in. An investigation found only six dogs living outside, and they were being cared for “within the standards of the law,” so there was no action that could be taken, Garrett said.

Garrett said reports continued to come in and visits continued to take place and after the ninth visit, Phillips and his attorney told him that any more conversations would require a court order.

“In order to get a court order we have to have probable cause, witnesses, evidence,” Garrett said. “Until recently, everybody that was calling … wanted to remain anonymous.”

Garrett said no witness statements meant no evidence he could take into court.

A break in the case came on Friday when Garrett got a call from a “concerned citizen” who was willing to sign a witness statement. Garrett said he began working with prosecutors and lining things up for the raid.

“The video that went viral on Saturday (was) in between when I was getting my stuff together and when we were able to act,” Garrett said of a viral video on TikTok showing the property.

Garrett said Phillips was not at the property at the time of the raid, so no citation was issued on Sunday. During Monday’s press conference, however, Garrett said he would be meeting with prosecutors to discuss which charges will be filed in the case. Garrett said there may be neglect charges as well as charges related to dog licensing and kennel licensing.

Garrett said there’s “a lot of misinformation flying around out there” about the case, and there was no evidence of dog fighting at the property. Garrett said he was not sure what the dogs were being raised for but said there was no dog fighting paraphernalia at the property.

Due to the recent rain, there was water and mud “everywhere” on the property, Garrett said.

As for the dogs, he added some of them were underweight and gave the example that some dogs were 30-35 pounds when they should be about 40 pounds.

Garrett said the dogs were being cared for at the county shelter, and the Delaware County Humane Society said the dogs were receiving veterinary services as well as feeding regiments Monday.

“(We’re doing) all the things we can do to improve these dogs,” Garrett said.

Looking ahead to the future of the dogs, Garrett said they are in a holding stage while court proceedings continue.

“I can’t release them until they are legally mine,” Garrett said. “After that period, we’re going to start looking at rescues and organizations that deal with this type of dog in these types of living conditions. What rescues (that have capacity to) pull dogs will have their go. The rest will be made available for adoption.”

Garrett said parties interested in helping should consider donations to the Humane Society of Delaware County or Rico Pet Recovery.

Jana Cassidy, the executive director of the Humane Society of Delaware County, released a statement via email Monday and said the humane society was currently caring for 13 of the dogs removed from the property. She said one of the “most challenging issues” the organization faces is the “the ability of any humane agent to take action that adheres to Ohio laws regarding animal welfare.”

“While we cannot provide additional specifics on this situation while legal action is pending, we can reassure everyone that we do everything we can to keep all animals safe and healthy, and we take legal action whenever we have the standing to do so,” Cassidy said. “Just last year, we investigated 110 potential cases and rescued 28 animals, responding to a 17% increase in the number of complaints of abuse and neglect – all with three part-time humane agents.”

Charges had not been filed in the case by press time Monday.

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903.

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