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Animal shelter operator sentenced to house arrest and one cat or dog

By jim Published: April 1, 2010

By Ed Meyer
Beacon Journal staff writer

Heather Nagel, one of the founders of Akron's Heaven Can Wait animal rescue shelter, was sentenced Thursday morning to 60 days of house arrest and prohibited from any further volunteer work with rescue animals at the shelter as penalties for her guilty pleas to animal cruelty charges.

The sentence was handed down in Akron Municipal Court by visiting Judge Michael Weigand, who also placed Nagel on three years of probation, ordered her to keep only one cat or dog as a personal pet and imposed random inspections of her residence once per month by probation officials and a Summit County Humane Society worker.

Nagel, who pleaded guilty in February to four counts of animal cruelty charges just before closing arguments were to begin in her municipal court trial, will have 30 days to comply with the sanctions, Weigand said.

More than 100 dogs and cats were kept inside the organization's North Hill house, which was raided by authorities in July.

City prosecutors had alleged that several dogs and cats were either sick or flea-infested and that most lived in cages and crates littered with urine and feces.

After the sentencing hearing, Nagel noted that because she had no previous arrest record, she expected that she would receive a sentence involving community service.

''I didn't expect this,'' Nagel said outside of court. ''I feel that I made restitution to the organization. I paid for all repairs to the Heaven Can Wait house, and any assistance they may have needed, I physically provided or paid for. And I had planned that that would suffice.

''I was not expecting any possibility of a jail sentence or having to give away pets,'' she added.

Weigand, a retired municipal court judge from Barberton, gave Nagel 90 days in jail for each of the four counts to which she pleaded guilty in her Feb. 25 trial. But he suspended 300 of the 360-day sentence and imposed the term of house arrest in lieu of any jail time.

Under the 60 days of house arrest, Nagel will be allowed only a half-hour to get to work each day and another half hour to return to her home, Weigand said.

The remaining time, the judge said, must be spent at her home with an ankle monitoring bracelet.

As Nagel was speaking to media in the seventh-floor hallway of the city justice center, her mother, Patricia Mihaly, yelled out angrily that the sentence and the claims by prosecutors amounted to what she called ''a witch hunt.''

Mihaly, a co-founder of the Heaven Can Wait shelter, was so distraught, she had to be escorted to the elevators by Nagel's attorney, Warner Mendenhall.

As Mendenhall was leading Mihaly away, Nagel said: ''My care of personal animals has never been an issue. I have veterinarians who are more than willing, as they did at trial, to testify for my care of animals.''

Among the animals seized by authorities from the Heaven Can Wait house last year, she said, ''you need to keep in mind that 94 of those were ordered by the judge to be returned a week later, because there was nothing wrong with them.

''The 12 that were in question,'' she said, ''had medical ailments I did not cause — and was treating. So I think that . . . speaks volumes for my care of animals.''

Nagel, who works as a marketing consultant for area businesses, founded the shelter with her mother in 2003 as an alternative in their efforts to reform Summit County pet shelters.

Heather Nagel, one of the founders of Akron's Heaven Can Wait animal rescue shelter, was sentenced Thursday morning to 60 days of house arrest and prohibited from any further volunteer work with rescue animals at the shelter as penalties for her guilty pleas to animal cruelty charges.

The sentence was handed down in Akron Municipal Court by visiting Judge Michael Weigand, who also placed Nagel on three years of probation, ordered her to keep only one cat or dog as a personal pet and imposed random inspections of her residence once per month by probation officials and a Summit County Humane Society worker.

Nagel, who pleaded guilty in February to four counts of animal cruelty charges just before closing arguments were to begin in her municipal court trial, will have 30 days to comply with the sanctions, Weigand said.

More than 100 dogs and cats were kept inside the organization's North Hill house, which was raided by authorities in July.

City prosecutors had alleged that several dogs and cats were either sick or flea-infested and that most lived in cages and crates littered with urine and feces.

After the sentencing hearing, Nagel noted that because she had no previous arrest record, she expected that she would receive a sentence involving community service.

''I didn't expect this,'' Nagel said outside of court. ''I feel that I made restitution to the organization. I paid for all repairs to the Heaven Can Wait house, and any assistance they may have needed, I physically provided or paid for. And I had planned that that would suffice.

''I was not expecting any possibility of a jail sentence or having to give away pets,'' she added.

Weigand, a retired municipal court judge from Barberton, gave Nagel 90 days in jail for each of the four counts to which she pleaded guilty in her Feb. 25 trial. But he suspended 300 of the 360-day sentence and imposed the term of house arrest in lieu of any jail time.

Under the 60 days of house arrest, Nagel will be allowed only a half-hour to get to work each day and another half hour to return to her home, Weigand said.

The remaining time, the judge said, must be spent at her home with an ankle monitoring bracelet.

As Nagel was speaking to media in the seventh-floor hallway of the city justice center, her mother, Patricia Mihaly, yelled out angrily that the sentence and the claims by prosecutors amounted to what she called ''a witch hunt.''

Mihaly, a co-founder of the Heaven Can Wait shelter, was so distraught, she had to be escorted to the elevators by Nagel's attorney, Warner Mendenhall.

As Mendenhall was leading Mihaly away, Nagel said: ''My care of personal animals has never been an issue. I have veterinarians who are more than willing, as they did at trial, to testify for my care of animals.''

Among the animals seized by authorities from the Heaven Can Wait house last year, she said, ''you need to keep in mind that 94 of those were ordered by the judge to be returned a week later, because there was nothing wrong with them.

''The 12 that were in question,'' she said, ''had medical ailments I did not cause — and was treating. So I think that . . . speaks volumes for my care of animals.''

Nagel, who works as a marketing consultant for area businesses, founded the shelter with her mother in 2003 as an alternative in their efforts to reform Summit County pet shelters.

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