Louisa County Woman Pleads Guilty to Animal Cruelty Charges

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A farm in Louisa County was home to over 500 animals A farm in Louisa County was home to over 500 animals
Clara Mae Collier pleaded guilty on Dec. 7 Clara Mae Collier pleaded guilty on Dec. 7
Authorities responded to a call of goats wandering the area Authorities responded to a call of goats wandering the area

The Louisa County woman accused of animal cruelty following a discovery of hundreds of malnourished animals has made a plea deal.

Clara Mae Collier, 77, pleaded guilty to five counts of animal cruelty and neglect on Thursday, December 7.

Deputies from the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office found hundreds of different animals in bad condition after they responded to a call for runaway goats along West Old Mountain Road on Wednesday, November 29.

As part of the deal, the judge sentenced Collier to 30 months in jail, but suspended all jail time as long as she makes restitution for the $7,500 the county spent caring for the animals.

The commonwealth decided that she wasn't a threat and since she surrendered the animals, jail time could be waived.

The five charges stem from the worst cases among the 525 animals seized. One guinea pig was found with its face chewed, some animals were deprived of food and water, and others had broken limbs.

However, police determined none of this was done with malicious intent.

"She's a 77-year-old lady," says Sergeant Mark Stanton of the Louisa County Sheriff's Office. "She's a wonderful individual. I mean, don't get me wrong, there's not a bad bone in her body, but she needed help but she's just of the kind that just won't ask for it. She just keeps doing and doing and doing."

Once all of the animals rescued from the farm are healthy, they'll be given to nonprofits and the Louisa County Animal Shelter.

Collier has agreed to turn over all the animals she had except for two birds, and received 500 hours of community service. She's also not allowed to take in any more animals.

Louisa County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office Press Release:

Louisa –Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty E. McGuire announced that Clara Collier, 77, of Louisa, surrendered all animals and pled guilty to all charges on Thursday, 7 December 2017. Mrs. Collier, a Louisa County resident, was sentenced to 30 months with all suspended on the condition she makes restitution for the cost the County spent caring for the animals.

The County spent $7,500 to care for the animals and based on Mrs. Collier’s finances she is able to perform 500 hours community service to satisfy the restitution obligation. In addition Mrs. Collier agreed to no longer possess any animals other than two companion birds and allow animal control to check on her to ensure she does not possess more animals and that the two birds are being treated appropriately.

Mrs. Collier has cared for animals for over 40 years but broke her leg in July 2017. At 77 years of age, while she healed from the broken leg and cared for sick friends, she could no longer manage the animals.

When some of her goats escaped an animal control officer returned the animals and discovered the living conditions of Mrs. Collier’s animals. The Officer also identified animals in dire need of veterinarian care.

The animals were seized for their safety and Mrs. Collier was charged for the most extreme matters. Mrs. Collier quickly recognized that the care and feeding of the animals was beyond her control and sought to resolve this matter at her first court appearance. She wanted to ensure her animals were sent to appropriate farms/homes and the County would not need to spend any more resources pending hearings or trials.

Speaking on the case, McGuire said: “Mrs. Collier is an elderly woman who did not maliciously mistreat her animals. It was an unfortunate situation in which Mrs. Collier, who was attempting to care for these animals, lost control of the situation. Unfortunately rather than reaching out for help Mrs. Collier allowed the situation to deteriorate to the point that several of the animals were left in cruel conditions, resulting in the charges to which Ms. Collier pled guilty.”

Major Donald Lowe, with the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office stated: “the incredible support from the community, local businesses, CART, our animal shelter, vets, volunteers and our county government was critical to the successful rescue and care of all of the animals. We all learned from this experience and are happy that the animals are safe and recovering.”

Donnie Embry, head of the Louisa County chapter of Community Animal Response Team and the Louisa County Animal Task Force, stated: “Louisa CART believes this outcome is the best solution for the animals involved, the monitoring stipulation will prevent her from doing this again and with the newly formed Louisa County Animal Resources Task Force will assist in monitoring the situation, prepared to help in any we can. We cannot begin to express our gratitude for the outpouring of help we received from the animal loving citizens that made this operation a success.”

Edwin Consolvo, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney, who prosecuted this case with McGuire said: “As the weather turns colder it is important for animal owners to ensure that their animals are properly cared for. For those needing assistance please contact authorities or local aid organizations for help.”

The livestock surrendered in this matter will be placed with non-profit animal rescue organizations. These organizations were vetted by Louisa County officials and are approved by the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Agriculture. Several of the companion animals will also be placed with approved non-profit animal rescue groups, with the remaining companion animals being available for adoption at the Louisa County Animal Shelter once they have been medically cleared.