Winchester, Va. - Russell Ebersole, owner of local pet training, boarding and grooming facility Aberdeen Acres, was sentenced on four counts of animal cruelty after being found guilty last October.
“I think Judge Athey gave it a lot of thought,” said Andrew Robbins, the Deputy Commonwealth Attorney for Frederick County. “I think that the presence of so many people watching the case and paying attention to it, and feeling very strongly about the animals that were abused in these cases, I think that was very helpful. I think it sends a strong message to a judge who is trying to determine the appropriate sentence."
The courtroom was packed with people wanting to make their opinions heard about Ebersole's charges.
"I’m feeling good about it," said Pamela Jones, who owns a lab named Owen. She says her dog was abused by Ebersole when he was a puppy. “I think he will benefit from serving time. I don’t think he understand the full repercussions of his actions, and perhaps this will send a message to him,” Jones said.
There were those present who were in support of Ebersole.
"Mr. Ebersole has never abused a dog, ever in his life," said Melissa Stubblefiled, a previous neighbor of Ebersole’s. When asked about her reaction to his sentencing, Stubblefield said she thought it was, “absolutely ridiculous. He does not deserve this. He has not abused dogs. He’s using standard training methods."
Despite Stubblefield’s protests, along with others in support of him, Ebersole was sentenced to four years of jail time, two of which were suspended. He'll also pay a $10,000 fine, and serve eight years of unsupervised probation.
Ebersole also has to seek anger management counseling, and cannot be in possession of any companion animals for up to four years after his probation.
There were another seven animal abuse charges against Ebersole, but the judge dismissed them in favor of Ebersole pleading guilty to four counts of animal abuse. There were also two other charges brought against Ebersole for animal abuse, but those charges were dropped prior to the sentencing.
"He did get jail time; he's been prohibited from possessing animals. So that's a big party of what we were hoping to achieve, that he could not do this in the future,” said Robbins. “The fact that he's going to jail sends a powerful message. We're happy about that."
“Let this be a lesson to anybody that abuses any animal, not just dogs - but any animal," said Roger Lovett, owner of Save A Pit, who was present during Ebersole’s misdemeanor hearing for animal abuse charges with the Winchester General District Court on November 26, 2013. Ebersole was also found guilty of that charge.
After the sentencing, Ebersole was placed in the custody of the Frederick county sheriff, and sits behind bars now.
Aberdeen Acers Pet Care Center, which is owned and operated by Ebersole, is still open for business.
Ebersole is currently charged for pointing and brandishing a firearm. That hearing is scheduled for December 27, 2013 at 3 p.m. in the Winchester General District Court.