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Alleged Harford County hoarder’s trial delayed

Alleged Harford County hoarder’s trial delayed

Baltimore Examiner 8/15/2007 

Harford County – The trial for an alleged animal hoarder in Harford County was postponed Thursday, disappointing a crowd of shelter volunteers, animal lovers and adopters who came to support a strong punishment. 

Donna Bell, 60, is charged with 118 counts of animal cruelty and neglect after police say they found 70 dogs, four cats and 44 carcasses in two waste-filled Whiteford homes in May 2006. 

Judge John Dunnigan postponed the trial because state law required him to have a psychologist’s report written within the past 90 days, and the report he had was too old. Bell was released on the condition that she not be responsible for any animals and that she continue treatment for the mental illness her lawyer said led her to take in so many animals. 

At least 20 people came to the District Court wearing pins that read “remember the victims” and bore a picture of Fernando, a dog taken from one of the houses with thick fur caked in dirt and waste. 

“They need to treat [Bell], make sure this never The Saab Summer Challenge happens again,” shelter volunteer Debbie Pineda said. “I feel like there has to be some retribution for this… the suffering these animals endured was terrible.” 

Bell’s attorney, Leonard Shapiro of Owings Mills, said her doctor could write a new report without evaluating her any further and a new court date may be set within a month. 

“What people lost sight of is that this started as an animal rescue,” Shapiro said. Bell, who now lives in Highlandtown, originally took in unwanted animals to find them homes, but her mental illness made 
her unable to refuse more even when the number overwhelmed her, he said.

He could not discuss specifics of her diagnosis or treatment, citing privacy concerns. 

The Harford County Humane Society was inundated last summer with animals taken from the two houses. Many required extensive veterinary care, grooming and socialization. 
“I went just to drop off my donation and I was there for four hours,” said Noelle J., who adopted one of the dogs but did not want to give her last name. “I spent the first two hours crying,” 

Because each charge of cruelty carries a maximum penalty of 90 days and a $1,000 fine, Bell could face up to 29 years in prison and $118,000 in fines. In September, she pleaded not criminally responsible for her action.