Report animal cruelty

Had more attention been paid to Belmont County resident Shania Wells after charges related to mistreatment of animals were handled in 2017, some animals’ lives might have been saved.

But can such a tragedy be avoided in the future? That remains to be seen.

Wells was sentenced to 90 days in jail this week in Belmont County Western Division Court. She also is not to own any animals, or even reside in a place where animals are kept, for five years.

Sentencing came as a result of Wells’ guilty plea in April to multiple counts of animal cruelty. They were filed after sheriff’s deputies went to her home near Belmont in December and found a number of dead and mistreated animals. Survivors, including six cows, three horses, a donkey, a goat, a pig and 11 chickens, were taken elsewhere to recover.

Her run-in with the law in December was not the first time Wells had been accused of mistreating animals. She faced similar accusations in 2017, but charges were dismissed after she completed a pretrial “diversion program.”

Had someone in authority been monitoring her after the 2017 case, it is possible what happened in December would never have occurred.

But law enforcement agencies have their hands full, and the welfare and safety of human beings has to take priority over that of animals. So Wells got away with making a mockery of her 2017 “diversion program.”

Can anything be done to avoid something similar happening in the future?

It is likely Wells will be watched after she gets out of jail later this year. But sadly, she is far from the only person with a penchant for cruelty to animals.

Some help in the situation may be on the way. This week, Belmont County commissioners entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Belmont County Animal Rescue League that should result in appointment of a county humane officer. That plan has been in the works for more than a year.

Nothing matches an alert, concerned citizenry, however. Someone called the sheriff’s department last December, possibly saving the lives of some animals. That kind of concern is the best safeguard defenseless creatures have against mistreatment.

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