The Tonopah woman arrested on multiple animal cruelty charges has hired local attorney Nancy Lord as her legal counsel.
Bette Lynne Fuchsel, 69, arrested Feb. 24 by Nye County deputies, was charged with 20 counts of cruelty to animals, 19 counts of failure to vaccinate, 20 counts of dog license required and one count of odor.
She appeared in court before Justice of the Peace Jennifer Klapper last week, as she faces two additional cases of allegedly mistreating roughly six dozen dogs and two cats confiscated from her Tonopah home earlier this year.
During last week’s hearing, Fuchsel requested to have her public defender, Chris Arabia replaced by Lord.
Arabia was first assigned to the case after Fuchsel indicated she could not afford to retain her own legal counsel.
In May, District Judge Kim Wanker granted custody of several dozen of Fuchsel’s dogs to Nye County Animal Control in Pahrump.
Fuchsel was given a deadline to clean up her property and find suitable accommodations for up to four of the dogs if she wanted to retain custody of just a few of the animals.
She was unable to comply with Wanker’s order.
Last week, Klapper requested Arabia brief the court on the status of the case.
Arabia noted one case involving Fuchsel, for which she pled guilty in July, was now “on appeal” in district court.
Arabia told Klapper that Fuchsel signed a “substitution of attorney.”
“She has made it clear she wants someone else to represent her on ‘all dog-related’ matters,” he said. “She came and got her file and I think I should step away from all of this,” Arabia said.
“I collected what was given to me,” Fuchsel retorted.
Fuchsel sought new representation by Lord, who represented the defendant previously in district court.
Klapper asked, “Do you want Lord?”
Fuchsel responded, “I want you to appoint her.”
Aware that Arabia had previously been appointed as a public defender to represent Fuchsel, Klapper indicated, “She (Lord) is not contracted” as a public defender.
“Your time. Your dime,” Klapper said of the service by the private attorney.
Deputy District Attorney John Friel said Fuchsel’s new attorney should be present.
“I’ve had no contacts with anyone wanting to represent her,” Friel said.
Fuchsel responded that Lord had represented her in a civil action and “she is familiar” with the charges.
Friel said, “It is wrong for her (Lord) to come in now.”
But Klapper said, “We cannot proceed.”
The judge admonished Fuchsel on the grounds that if her new attorney was not present at the future hearing, the judge would decide who would represent her.
Lord, meanwhile, has her own ongoing legal woes with the Nye County Animal Control officials. It was one year ago when Nye County authorities served a search warrant on the attorney while confiscating three dozen animals that had become a nuisance, according to residents who live in the neighborhood near Blagg and Stagecoach roads.
The seizure came after months of negotiations with Lord, who had previously been cited numerous times by Animal Control officers.
During that time, Nye County Emergency Services Director Vance Payne said his crews were directed by the court to confiscate just enough dogs where Lord could remain in compliance with local statutes and ordinances relating to pets.
Nye County Ordinance Number 430 requires animal owners with more than five dogs or cats over the age of six months on any given property to obtain a residential kennel permit, while anyone with more than 10 dogs or cats over the age of six months to obtain a commercial kennel permit.
Lord did not acquire those.
The ordinance went into effect Oct. 8, 2012 after it was approved by the Board of County Commissioners on Sept. 18, 2012.
As a result, Payne said his agency had to act due to the sheer number of dogs on the property.
“In Nye County you’re allowed up to nine dogs,” he said. “In this situation, we estimate somewhere between 30 to 70 dogs on this property. The judge felt that we were at a point where we had to move on this. She is still the owner of the animals and the court will sort it all out,” he said.
Crews spent the better part of two hours rounding up dogs of various breeds, some of which are still in the custody of Animal Control.
Payne said this week that the shelter is running a bare bones crew, at present.
“Those custody animals are currently costing the public approximately $230 per day, give or take.”