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Hearing delayed after dog owner asks for counsel

A Tonopah resident charged with dozens of counts regarding the care of animals in her care made an initial appearance in Tonopah Justice Court on March 19.

Bette Lynne Fuchsel, 69, had charges lodged against her in a citation early in the year and was arrested Feb. 24 by Nye County deputies assisted by county Animal Control and Hazmat/Emergency Management.

Sixty-seven Whippet dogs and two cats were seized from Fuchsel’s home at 24 Cody St., with the dogs transported to the animal shelter in Pahrump. The Whippet is a medium-sized dog related to the Greyhound breed.

She appeared before Justice of the Peace Jennifer Klapper facing 20 counts of cruelty to animals, 19 counts of failure to vaccinate, 20 counts of dog license required and one count of odor.

The judge began preliminary inquiries about the complaint and the defendant noted that there was an incorrect spelling of her name in one of the counts.

Fuchsel said she thought the day’s hearing would be on some of the charges, especially the proof of vaccination. She said she had given the dogs shots through on-line sources.

Klapper again advised that the hearing was to establish the counts and seek a plea. She advised each count, as misdemeanors, could result in a $1,000 fine, six months in jail or both.

Fuchsel asked if this was one individual charge and the judge said all of the individual complaints were “aggregate.”

“I want you to know the maximum penalties,” the judge said.

The judge then asked if the defendant wanted an attorney and Fuchsel said “Yes.” When asked if she had one, the defendant said, “Absolutely not.”

Throughout the hearing, Fuchsel sat by herself at the defense table and there was not a prosecutor in the courtroom. Since the defendant indicated a wish for an attorney, the judge swore her in to answer questions about her needs.

Fuchsel said:

She was not employed but was retired; she had a net monthly income of $3,000 from social security, retirement and a pension; she had some assets through local properties; and her debts included $3,000 to $3,500 owed to veterinarians, and $4,000 in credit card debt, also mostly owed to veterinarians.

The judge then asked Fuchsel to sign a statement attesting to those facts and requesting an attorney.

Klapper advised Fuchsel she might be required to repay the county for the cost of a public defender, which seldom exceeded $300.

Klapper then appointed Chris Arabia, local public defender, as Fuchsel’s counsel. A hearing was set for April 8, 11 a.m. to possibly enter a plea and perhaps a disposition hearing on the animals.

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