Legally Proven Animal Abuser Tries to Weasel Out of NH Trial
In July 2015 Laurinda Miller, of Ossipee NH, was arrested after a warrant to search her premises led to evidence of animal cruelty.
Miller is the owner of Sweet Paws Spa & Inn, a pet grooming facility, as well as the president of Sweet Tails, a self-proclaimed animal rescue group founded in 2014. A group that was actively raising money in 2015, to obtain a NH license and to financially support the Sweet Paws Spa location. One of the charitable fundraisers was organized by a woman named Michelle Fistek.
The warrant for the search came after the Ossipee Police Department received reports from witnesses noting their suspicion of animal cruelty. Ossipee Police searched both structures on Miller’s premises, which included the spa as well as her residence, which is a structure adjacent to the spa.
Following her arrest she was charged with 21 Class A Misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, as the search lead to the finding of seven cats and 59 dogs, living in what Ossipee Police Sgt. Robert King described as, “Just absolutely horrendous conditions”. The animals were living in very confined areas, lying in their own feces and urine, and they were malnourished and dehydrated.
Debra Cameron of the Conway Area Humane Society, who took part in the rescue of the animals, commented that both buildings on the premises reeked of ammonia and death stating, “The conditions were just beyond description.”
The Sweet Tails Animal Rescue Board of Directors released custody of most of the animals that were found and were made available for adoption by the New Hampshire Humane Society in Laconia and the Conway Area Humane Society.
There are 7-8 dogs that are claimed to be personally owned by Miller that remain in protective custody, as per Ossipee Police Sgt. King stated, "Without a court order or Miller's consent to release the custody of these animals, they will remain in the custody of the Lakes Region Humane Society.”
Ossipee Animal Rescue - A photo showing some of the dogs rescued from Miller's premises. The dogs since then have been cleaned, received medical care and have been adopted or are resting comfortably at a rescue facility.
The Ossipee Police Department made attempts to get Miller to relinquish custody of the dogs, but she refused. The police also filed a petition with the circuit court to release custody of the dogs, but are still awaiting the courts decision.
In late 2015, Miller pleaded “not guilty” and filed a motion to suppress the evidence, arguing that the witness who made the complaint to the Ossipee Police Department had not been “adequately weighed under the circumstances in granting the search warrant.” Basically meaning, that the witness’s report which lead to the warrant was not creditable.Miller also attests that the search warrant was “overbroad”, claiming that her residence, although adjacent to the spa, was not legally searched based on the warrant and therefore evidence gathered in that structure is inadmissible.
On February 12th, 2016 however, Ossipee District Court Judge James Patten ruled against Miller, saying the state’s interest extended “to the defendant’s business operation in taking in and housing animals, not just the animals themselves. As such the basis for searching any structures on the property for such records was supported by the probable-cause allegations being made, and the request and warrant to do so was not overbroad.”
However, Miller just does not want to give it up. On February 24th, per Miller’s request, her public defender, Justin Littlefield asked Judge Patten to reconsider his ruling stating, there was “no reason to believe that the informant who tipped off Ossipee police had any knowledge of animals or documents being located within the defendant’s residence. The only allegations contained within the affidavit refer to the defendant’s place of business and not her home. Given that these are two distinct locations and are actually separate buildings, there was no nexus between the information in the affidavit and the defendant’s home.”
NH state penalty for Class A Misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,000. Based on Miller’s 21 counts against her, she could be facing a $42,000 fine, as well as possible jail time.
This is clearly one last attempt by Miller to weasel out of taking any responsibility for her horrendous abuse to those innocent animals. Although she has forced the animals to live a complete nightmare, she however cowers from the thought of a monetary fine and the possibility of living in a jail cell herself.
Miller's weak efforts of questioning the witness’s creditably are completely ridiculous, as plenty of evidence was found validating the witness’s suspicions.From a legal standpoint however, it appears that the court has already addressed any questions regarding the warrant and the multi property search. Again, the state's interest extended to Miller’s business operation, the taking in and housing animals, in addition to the animals themselves, thus supporting the search of all structures on the property and confirming the warrant was not overbroad.
Laurinda Miller deserves nothing less then the harshest punishment allowed by the law for the inhumane crimes that she has committed. If the judge was to go back on any ruling so far, it would not only weaken the view of the state laws regarding animal rights, which are currently too minimal as it is, but support other judges who turn their heads away from the severity of animal abuse crimes by imposing minor sentences not equally fitting the crimes and seeming like a mere "slap on the hand". We can only hope that Judge Patten stays firm and the facts and laws behind the original warrant hold up. One can also hope that the Sweet Tails Rescue group is also investigated, considering Miller was the president of the group, it certainly is suspicious as to whether Michelle Fistek’s and the remaining board member’s hands are clean.