Dogs forfeited to county


The 40 dogs seized in a raid on a property on Kilbourne Road earlier this month were declared forfeited Wednesday in Delaware Municipal Court after the owner failed to appear for a hearing.

Robert Michael Phillips Jr., 42, was charged with four counts of prohibition against failure to register dog kennel and 26 counts of prohibitions concerning animal companions last week in Delaware Municipal Court.

Phillips’ property at 7474 Kilbourne Road was the site of a raid led by Delaware County Dog Warden Mitchell Garrett on April 7. During the three-hour operation, Garrett removed 40 dogs, mostly pit bulls or pit bulls mixes, from the property with the assistance of Delaware County Humane Society, the Marion County Dog Warden’s Office, the Morrow County humane agent, and nonprofit group Rico Pet Recovery.

Delaware County reported Wednesday that a show-cause hearing had been scheduled for April 17 in Delaware Municipal Court, but Phillips failed to appear at the hearing. Municipal Court Judge Marianne Hemmeter then declared the dogs abandoned and forfeited to the care of the Delaware County Dog Shelter.

The county reported the dogs are currently at the county’s dog shelter and at the Humane Society of Delaware County (HSDC).

“In terms of expediting safe and healthy outcomes for these dogs, this is the best case scenario we could have hoped for,” Garrett said Wednesday. “If the property owner had shown up to contest the charges, this would have dragged out much longer.”

Jana Cassidy, executive director at HSDC, added, “Getting ownership of the 20 dogs already in our care gives us the greenlight to move forward with preparing them for future adoptions, including performing spays and neuters and, for those dogs who need it, dealing with dental concerns. We had already addressed other basics, such as vaccines and necessary medical treatments.

“Thank you to everyone in the community for your wonderful support of these pups. We are incredibly grateful for the financial donations already received, and we also deeply appreciate the veterinary clinics that have stepped up to offer free medical services. In addition to an estimated $14,000 in additional monthly care expenses, HSDC staff will be working with identified behaviorists with expertise in unsocialized dogs. As many understand, dogs who have not been socialized around humans or lived inside a home will need a lot of time and training. Teaming experienced trainers with our staff will help ensure these dogs are not failed by humans again. It is our goal to ensure these pups get the training needed to be a great pet.”

At a press conference on April 8, Garrett said his office would be looking to re-home some of the dogs with rescues and organizations that deal with dogs from similar situations, while the rest would be put up for adoption.

At the press conference Garrett said his office has been aware of Phillips 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 added 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. Garrett said his office continued to receive complaints but said none of the callers were willing to sign a witness statement.

At the press conference, Garrett said the catalyst for the raid was a caller on April 5 who was willing to sign a witness statement. Garrett said after he received the statement, he began organizing the raid and said the viral video of the property on social media began spreading while the raid was being organized.

Phillips was not at the property at the time of the raid.

Garrett said Monday that there was “a lot” of misinformation about the case, and there was no evidence of dog fighting.

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

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