81 Year Old Woman Jailed Two Days For Allegedly Violating Pet Ordinance

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Mary RootIn an outrageous lack of discretion,  some members in the animal control and court system in Havre de Grace, Maryland put 81 year old great grandmother Mary Root through a harrowing ordeal.

Mary Root says her pets somehow got loose from her yard several times. A neighbor took pictures of the dogs running down the street and reported her to Animal Control.
The agency slapped Root with a $7,000 fine or she could spend nearly a year in jail.

“I’m struggling to pay my house taxes. I couldn’t pay it. It’s a different thing when you leave your dogs out and you don’t care. But I do care,” Root said. But when the cancer survivor failed to show up at court on her doctor’s orders, a judge had Root arrested.

She was booked, fingerprinted and issued a striped jumpsuit. She waited to see a judge in a cell without her cancer medication.

“I sort of clutched my Bible. And was crying and went to sleep,” Root said.

Root’s defense attorneys asked the judge to let the senior citizen go. She had no previous criminal history and she was in failing health. The judge said no. Instead, he ordered her to pay a $2,500 bail. And if she was able to pay it and get out, then no animals would be allowed back on her property.

“[The judge] gave me the works. I feel like I’m a criminal, but yet I don’t feel like I’ve done anything,” Root said.

Her daughter, Vatina Gifford, was in court for the bail review hearing saying: “Watching your mother, barely able to walk, in prison stripes – she doesn’t deserve that,”

Then on the second night, a Good Samaritan paid the bond.

“There are very nice people out there. But then there are some people who are so struck on the strictness of the law. I don’t know whether maybe that needs to be looked at,” Root said.

But now she can’t go back to her home of 44 years. Under the judge’s orders, the dogs aren’t allowed. But Root says she can’t give them up.

“I love them,” she said. “I was planning on coming down on the dogs. But my dogs, they keep my company and I love them.”

Root says she’s had an outpouring of support from people in the community. In fact, there’s a petition asking lawmakers to make cases like this a little more lenient for senior citizens.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same. I can’t pull myself back,” Root said.
Root says she was taking care of her daughter’s four dogs at the time of her arrest. A good Samaritan paid the $250 bond to get Root out of jail. She is now looking for good homes for the dogs

Harford County SealThe callousness of nearly everyone in the system involved is disgraceful. That a neighbor would be so perturbed to take pictures of the dogs running and call animal control is probably the least. But what kind automaton does the county seek in an Animal Control Officer applicant to fulfill the agency’s need to nick an 81 year old disabled woman with criminal citations amounting to reportedly $7,000.00?

Then, what shining example can a judge be by not allowing for a continuance for a defendant, obviously ill in health and having a doctor’s order for her not to attend a trial at that time? Then, going so far to issue a bench warrant and remand her into custody in jail for two days without her cancer pills. This is unacceptable.

Even from a practical point of view most jails are not equipped and do not like to incarcerate inmates such as May. The judge knew this but instead chose retribution toward this frail great-grandmother.

This entire episode is a miscarriage of justice. The criminal justice system in Harford County should be ashamed of itself.

By Darren Smith

CBS Baltimore
WBAL Boston

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

33 thoughts on “81 Year Old Woman Jailed Two Days For Allegedly Violating Pet Ordinance”

  1. In a lot of cases it doesn’t take much to be a judge. This is one situation where society has obviously been shortchanged. Laws are our bible, however, every bible was made by the people. It is up to the people to balance the situation and weigh the result. This judge has serious mental problems and should never have been given the position. This judge is more like some blustering redneck drunk in a bar.

    This post misses one part of what could lead to justice, the name of the miserable cretin who has been given powers well beyond his or her intelligence.

  2. @ PaulRevereWear: Now I really don’t think you want to be the one that says, “I shot the Sheriff.” do you? …………. No answer required.

  3. no wonder they want your guns, Then they could really control a persons freedom. It’s time to load up

  4. From the prospective of being a former lawyer I say that this does not have a legal remedy. Justice is required but here is what I would do if it was my mom: Shoot the Sheriff, the Judge and the people in the way. Is this article really true?

  5. Even if the dogs were not controlled properly that was no reason to put this woman through that kind of jackbooted ordeal. The police state prefers these easy arrests to pad the coffers. This story is similar to many that have been posted here about school authorities unjustifiably punishing children for being children. Many people feel a false sense of safety when the authoritarian state manages their every move in robotic fashion. As usual, the big boys, such as the banksters and corporate executives are let loose to pillage at will, but the little guy is punished for minor oversights and slight misdeeds.

  6. “The real jerk of the story is the neighbor who took pictures and made the call.” -neighbordave

    One of several, but s/he’s certainly the “jerk” who got the ball rolling.

  7. The real jerk of the story is the neighbor who took pictures and made the call. Certainly, not from Mr. Roger’s neighborhood!

  8. Nowadays you’re better off mistreating your children…allegedly.

  9. The lady w as treated horribly! We use to respect the elderly. People today only think of themselves, and have no respect or caring for their fellow man, be it an elderly person who is struggling to exist, or who is sick, or the divorcee next door who is left to care for her children with no help from the dead beat father. The masses have no compassion for people but a passion to see and do what they can get by with.. The world owes them, It is an I, My and me world.

    Police who have no compassion for the elderly and sick. A blatant lack of common sense in performing their duty. “Shoot first, before thinking. …maybe, the man can’t walk without a cane or the man forced to have hands tied behind his back has had shoulder surgery and can’t be restrained that way We live in a sick world of narcissistic people today and so many laws that if we actually tried to keep every law, this country would self destruct.. Children are being raised to demand what they want and the youth and young American (also illegal immigrants who have contributed nothing to the country today) demand the government give them whatever they need, food, schooling, cellphones, the right to be high, to break our laws.. children suing parents to pay for their schooling without contribution on their behalf, “heck they had me, they owe me! And so the scenario goes on and on. ………….This was a great country once!

  10. The judge’s name is Mimi Cooper.


    A couple of comments to the linked article:

    “Judge Mimi is notorious in Harford County. She is just horrible.”

    “I’m a police officer, clean record for life. When I was 18, judge cooper fined me $500, gave me a years PBJ and put a stipulation on my case of 30 days in jail if I violated my probation… For a fender bender that I pled guilty to. She then proceeded to berate me in open court for a few minutes because she was having a bad morning. That was the only accident I’ve ever gotten into my entire life. I don’t know this ladies prior’s or past incidents but, this is ridiculous. It’s hard to swear to uphold, believe in and protect a system when abuses of the system take place like this.”

  11. “Root has lived in Maryland her entire life and at her current residence on Oak Drive for 40 years, David said. She said Root is a widow and had four children, two of whom have died. Root was valedictorian from high school and worked at the Fort Detrick Army installation in Frederick and the Aberdeen Proving Ground Ordinance Center and School before retiring.”



    Thanks, Darren.

  12. Amendment VIII, Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

    This is just one of the constantly occurring examples, of the cruel and fascist nature of those that seek political power and the power of confiscation that the legalization of the initiation of force promotes. They, our founding father, set our Constitution up to protect the Citizens from the confiscatory actions imposed on them by despotic monarchs, yet they still hold true under the so-called actions of our democratic Republic. Obviously, they knew that it does not matter what form of government politicians act under, they will always try to usurp the rights and property of the Citizens.

  13. A judge who is too fond of his own power – he will get his own “comeuppance” eventually – may that be soon !I
    He should have worked something out with the family on this – there is no question that there was no real crime involved here, just a mother, frail but still trying to help her daughter. I do think 4 dogs is too many for any household let alone someone who can barely walk around, but to call this a crime is way out of line – common sense and compassion is what is needed here.

  14. I don’t believe shooting back is an answer but this entire episode illustrates a breakdown of our “justice system” that is all too common these days. Can’t people who wear black robes or carry a badge think in a manner consistent with common sense or maintain a minimal level of empathy? Or to quote from the master himself:

    “And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
    When mercy seasons justice.”

  15. It really is only a matter of time before people start shooting back.

    We did it to the Redcoats, it will happen again.

    Stephan Gregory Patterson,…….

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