Crazy Animal Control Officer Ruins A Family’s Life For Ever

Posted on 05/21/2009

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Wednesday May 20, 2009, 3:28 PM

Animal cruelty case involving 4-H queen ends with misdemeanor plea

by Jill Blondin | The Flint Journal

Wednesday May 20, 2009, 3:28 PM

IMLAY TOWNSHIP, Michigan — In the end, they admitted to having one unlicensed dog, a far cry from an original felony charge of killing and torturing animals.

An animal abuse case involving Oakland County 4-H queen Kate Mills ended this month when her parents agreed to fence their property and each pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of having an unlicensed dog.

“We didn’t do anything wrong. We had all the records to prove it,” said Kate’s mother, Ellen Mills. “In a two-year-period, they managed to ruin our lives.”

Kate, her parents and her brother were charged with animal abuse and neglect two years ago after animal control officers found a dead horse, seven dead lambs and three undernourished dogs at the Mills’ family farm on Weyer Road in Imlay Township. Because of Kate’s status as a 4-H queen, the case drew international attention.

The Mills’ each were charged with a felony count of torturing and killing animals and misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty and abandonment, improper animal burial and having an unlicensed dog. Assistant Lapeer County Prosecutor Tom Sparrow said the court never determined whether any animals had been abused because evidence obtained in a search, deemed illegal by a judge, was thrown out.

“We had nothing to prove there might have been abuse,” Sparrow said.

Ellen Mills said she had evidence proving the family’s innocence that never went to a jury, either. The horse had been under the care of a veterinarian, she said, and died from a long illness. The lambs died shortly after being born in freezing weather, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture had ordered the Mills’ not to dispose of the dead animals until they were inspected for possible disease.

The charges against Kate were dismissed three months after her arrest after Lapeer District Judge Laura Barnard determined she was living in East Lansing when the charges were filed. Charges against her brother, Andrew, were dropped last fall after the judge determined he was not involved in the animals’ care. The case against Kate’s parents dragged on until this month.

“They managed to steal my dogs, raid my home and ruin my reputation,” Ellen Mills said.

Still pending are the Mills’ lawsuits against the Lapeer County officials they claim ruined their lives. After the arrests, people drove past their home and threw stones at their then 6-year-old daughter, Ellen Mills said. Ellen and her husband, Mark, lost a commercial cleaning job they’d held for a decade, Mills said. Andrew couldn’t take his girlfriend to her prom, after her school ran a criminal background check on him and denied him admittance.

Kate, who recently graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in animal science, has dropped her plans to become a veterinarian.

“Who would go to a vet who’d been charged with killing a horse?” Ellen Mills asked. “They don’t care that the charges were dropped. They only care she was accused of a crime.”

Sparrow said the county did nothing wrong, despite the judge’s ruling the farm was illegally searched.

“I don’t believe any of their constitutional rights were violated by any public official,” Sparrow said. “Based upon the evidence we obtained at the time, the charges were justified.”

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