Woman sentenced after pleading guilty to animal cruelty in Putnam County

Putnam County Magistrate Court spokeswoman says Melissa "Missy" Rucker pleads guilty Thursday to five counts of animal cruelty. (West Virginia Regional Jail)

A Kanawha County woman was sentenced after pleading guilty Thursday in Putnam County Magistrate Court to five counts of animal cruelty.

Melissa “Missy” Jo Rucker, the owner of Missy’s Four Paws, pleaded guilty before Magistrate Kylene Brown, a magistrate court spokeswoman said. She was sentenced to one year in jail, two years of probation and a $10,000 restitution fine.

Rucker appealed the sentence. No court date has been set.

In May 2017, Rucker was charged with 47 counts of animal cruelty, according to a criminal complaint filed in Putnam County Magistrate Court.

The complaint said on May 9, a warrant was executed at Four Paws Pet Salon in Scott Depot, which was owned and operated by Rucker, because of a report of suspected animal neglect. The complaint said the Putnam County Humane Office had received several complaints that Rucker was operating a puppy mill where she sold dogs that were ill and required medical treatment.

According to the complaint, during the search, the only employee working at the time told officers where the kennels were located but said she was not permitted to see them.

There were 28 kennels and most of them had four dogs in them, according to the complaint. Only five of the 28 kennels had food for the dogs, and that food had mold growing on it. The complaint said the water that was available for the dogs was dirty and contained fecal matter.

According to investigating officers, the kennels contained a male and female dog and the kennels with four dogs contained one male and three females. There was also a dry-erase board on the wall with a breeding schedule for the dogs.

The complaint said several of the dogs were in poor health. Some were missing teeth, which made it difficult for them to eat. Several of the dogs were missing hair and had inflammation of the skin.

Several of the dogs also had feces dried in their fur and were emaciated, according to the complaint.

When officers searched for medication or medical records, they found no records and just nine capsules used for skin conditions.

Due to the lack of medical care, nutritious food and fresh water that was being provided, the complaint said officers seized 58 dogs and six puppies from the Putnam County location.

The day after the dogs were seized, a veterinarian at the Kanawha Charleston Humane Association found that 48 percent of the dogs were dehydrated, 17 percent were severely dehydrated and 48 percent had body condition sores, according to the complaint.

When questioned, the complaint said Rucker told police that she used a veterinarian in Hurricane. However, that vet told police Rucker had only taken nine dogs into his office in April to have blood drawn for Brucellosis testing.

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