As published in the Savannah Morning News (Sept 14, 2012)
By Jan Skutch
The city of Savannah failed to prove that animal groomer Sallie Bond caused the death of a dog left in her care April 16, a judge ruled today.
Chatham County Recorder’s Court Judge Harris Odell Jr. ruled that without an animal autopsy or extensive blood work any conclusion as to the cause of death of Tondee Levy would be speculative and acquitted Bond on an animal-cruelty charge.
The judge’s ruling included a $1,000 fine and 20 days in jail for other ordinance violations which was deferred and suspended upon Bond meeting a series of actions within 90 days.
Bond’s lawyer, attorney Richard Middleton, said he anticipated her being back in business “as soon as possible,” probably within 10 days.
“I’m ready to go back to work and meet the babies again and do what I do,” Bond said after court.
She has remodeled her shop in readiness for re-opening.
Tondee, a 9-year-old Engilsh springer spaniel, was put down April 16 after being taken to Bond’s Loving Touch at 615 Habersham St. for a shampoo and haircut.
The death prompted Savannah-Chatham Animal Control offices to shut down the business April 18 for alleged multiple violations, including a cruelty to animals charge.
They speculated the animal’s death was caused by excessive heat and conditions in Bond’s business.
The judge called Tondee’s death “the impetus of the case.”
Odell, in a 7-page order read in court today, also acquitted Bond on charges of failure to obtain a “commercial pet animal license” since her business was not required to have such a license and 12 counts of animal neglect by failing to provide water for the animals in her care.
But Odell ruled Bond had violated ordinances by not having vaccination certificates for her two dogs and three cats on the site and failing to meet requirements for sanitation as required by the city and state Department of Agriculture.
He sentenced her to $1,000 fine and 20 days in jail but immediately deferred and suspended the sentences in return for her meeting several conditions within 90 days.
“It is clear that Sallie Bond is considered a valuable animal groomer and appears to sincerely care about the animals in her custody and care,” Odell ruled.
But he added it was also clear that Bond lacked sufficient knowledge of the rules and regulations of the city or agriculture department and set a number of requirements for her to meet before she can re-open.
Odell gave Bond 90 days to:
- Make and complete an applicaton for a permit from the state Department of Agriculture, a business tax certificate from the city’s revenue department and a certificate of occupancy from the city’s building and regulation department.
- Maintain veterinarian records on each dog and cat she bathes or grooms by verifying the date she contacts the veterinarian to ensure the animal had the required vaccination and license. That list shall be maintained daily and be made available to animal control officers upon request.
- Allow animal control and agriculture department officials to enter her business for inspections and to ensure compliance with the order and ordinances.
- Maintain her business in a clean state and comply with ordinances and laws of the city and Georgia.
Tondee’s owner, Joan Levy, took the dog to Loving Touch where Levy was a customer for about 8 years.
When the animal subsequently was unable to stand and was breathing heavily, Bond called Levy to get her dog.
Levy and her husband, Gary Levy, took the dog to VCA Greater Savannah Animal Hospital on DeRenne Avenue and subsequently to the veterinarian emergency hospital where efforts to revive him failed and he was put down.
But veterinarian Charles Jacob Harper at VCA testified he could not say what killed Tondee and that no necropsy was performed because the Levy’s made no such request.
In rendering his decision, Odell told Bond in court, “You provide a valuable service to a lot of people in this community,” noting the large number of supporters who have returned to court to support her.
Savannah realtor Celia Dunn, who was one of that group, said today she was relieved by Odell’s ruling and hoped to be back with Bond shortly.
“Thank God she was exonerated of the most serious charges,” said Dunn, who has taken her English springer spaniel who is Tondee’s half-brother to Bond for nine years.
Does she plan to return to Bond?
“Oh yes, definitely. as soon as we can get her up and running,” Dunn said.