Animal cruelty case in court

ST. CLAIRSVILLE Jessie Eugene Arno, 35, Shadyside, appeared in court Thursday facing two counts of animal cruelty, a felony of the fifth degree occurring May 20, 2013.

Arraignment was delayed until Monday so Arno could acquire counsel, but he was taken into custody and bond set at $5,000. He will appear before Common Pleas Court Judge Frank Fregiato today.

This case marks Belmont County’s first felony animal abuse court proceeding. Charges stem from the death of two pit bulls and near-death of another in May, when the county humane officer discovered the dead dogs and the condition of the survivor.

Arno’s co-defendant, Becky Vittor, will face misdemeanor charges when apprehended.

Arno has a 2004 conviction for animal abuse. Prosecutor Chris Berhalter noted that a prior conviction is necessary to bring felony counts of animal abuse against an individual.

“Unfortunately in the state of Ohio, no matter what the severity of abuse is to an animal, it only becomes a felony if there’s a prior conviction,” Berhalter said.

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