Co-owner Daniel Makara pleaded guilty in Cleveland Municipal Court yesterday to three counts of animal neglect and two counts of abandoning animals. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, which was immediately suspended; then, he was placed on probation and barred from any contact with animals. He will also submit to a mental health assessment.
Co-owner Raven Cooke pleaded guilty to three counts of animal neglect. Her 180-day jail sentence was similarly suspended. And while she is also barred from contact with animals, both she and Makara are allowed to be around "the Rottweiler dog known as 'Ellie' and the Husky dog known as 'Zeus,'" according to court records.
The list of tragic experiences of families who've adopted from Makara and Cooke is a lengthy one, brought to a halt for now by the Cleveland APL's humane investigations team. Among the problems shared with Scene
: underweight dogs, worms, coccidia, distemper, Parvo, respiratory problems, the use of livestock antibiotics on dogs, improper adoption forms, $1,000-plus in adoption fees for sick dogs, $3,000-plus in veterinary costs in some cases — and multiple dead dogs.
Marvin and Shelley Miller, of Dayton, coordinated a meeting with Makara while they were traveling north on a separate trip. They were looking for an Australian shepherd; Makara had several. They paid a $200 holding fee, met him and the dog en route to their other destination, and then adopted Lucy on the way back on Dec. 27. She was well, by all accounts, and the Millers pointed out to Cooke their amazement at "how much is going on at their home." Cooke tells them she has a 4-month-old baby in the house, too.
"It's not the type of house that you'd want to live in," Marvin tells Scene
. "I would say that in this room that was probably 25-by-15 feet...there must have been 15, 20 dogs there, running around. In the half-hour we were there, we must have seen two or three people come in and pick up a dog. This isn't an ideal way to have a lot of dogs; if one of them gets ill, they all get ill."
Lucy became sick within three days. She began having trouble breathing, and experiencing severe diarrhea. By Dec. 31, she had stopped eating, and deep lethargy was setting in.
Makara told them that Lucy's litter mate had coccidia, and said that he would have included that information in the adoption papers. (He did not, according to Marvin). He also told the Millers that Lucy's sister had been tested for Parvo
, because she had exhibited symptoms recently. Growing increasingly suspicious, the Millers began to investigate Makara's background.
On Jan. 5, though, the Millers brought Lucy to their vet, where she died in the arms of her family.
What the Millers and many others have learned is that this is not Makara's first time in the investigative spotlight. Last year, he was run out of Geauga County after the Humane Society removed 15 dogs from his adoption operation, a place called Cleveland Dog Rescue and Rehabilitation Center located on a farm in Novelty. The dogs were found trapped in crates in 90-degree heat after Makara's landlord evicted him. “The conditions were deplorable,” Chief Humane Agent Christian Courtwright said in a public statement.
Makara quickly established Puppies In Rescue (formerly known as UnderDog No-Kill Rescue and Training Center and, slightly earlier, Cleveland Area No-Kill Rescue and Training Center, tragically enough) in Cleveland. Even as he was under investigation and moving from one county to the next, Makara kept his PayPal account open and urged his supporters to donate to his cause.
Yesterday, as well, the Geauga case came to a close with Makara pleading guilty in Chardon Municipal Court to two counts of animal cruelty.
For months, dogs that had been adopted from a place called Puppies In Rescue have become incredibly ill soon after arriving at their new home; many have died. The "rescue," which wary families and adopters are calling a "puppy mill," is located on Lennox Avenue in Cleveland — far from the rolling hills of Holmes County, the unofficial puppy mill capital of Northeast Ohio.