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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Woman to serve 2 years for animal cruelty
Melissa Jarels admits to abandoning dogs
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Melissa Lynne Jarels
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

By K.A. WAGONER - Staff Writer

A Rocky Mount woman will serve two years of a four-year jail sentence for abandoning nine dogs in her mobile home for 12 days in April.

Melissa Lynne Jarels, 60, pleaded guilty Monday in Franklin County Circuit Court to four counts of animal cruelty and five counts of inadequate care of a companion animal.

Jarels was sentenced to one year in jail on each of the four cruelty charges, but Judge W.N. Alexander II suspended two of the four years.

She was also ordered to pay a $250 fine on each of the five inadequate care charges, but the $1,250 fine was suspended. However, Jarels was ordered to pay $2,910 in restitution to the animal shelter for the care of the dogs.

Jarels is also not allowed to own a companion animal for two years.

The dogs were discovered on April 23, based on an anonymous tip to animal control, according to prosecutor Patrick Nix.

When animal control officers arrived at the trailer, it had no electricity and no ventilation, as all the windows were shut, according to Cindy Brooks, adoption specialist with the Franklin County Animal Shelter.

"When we walked in, the smell of urine and feces burned our eyes," Brooks said.

The dogs were all severely dehydrated and malnourished, she added.

Empty food bowls were in the trailer and food was on the counter, but out of reach of the animals, Nix said. They drank the toilet dry.

"There were empty food and water bowls throughout the house as if the owner knew she would be gone for a while," said Brooks.

Due to the toxic ammonia from the urine, two of the dogs suffered seizures and the rest had serious respiratory infections, Nix said. Seven of them had conjunctivitis in their eyes.

"They suffered with mange and flea infestations so severe that the hair was missing on a lot of the dogs," Brooks added. "They were all anemic and suffered terrible worm infestations, and their nails were so long, they were starting to curve back and become embedded in their paws."

Once seized, the animals were taken to Franklin Animal Hospital, where they received needed treatment.

Seven of the dogs have been adopted, and the remaining two are in foster care through the Franklin County Humane Society. If interested in adoption, call (540) 489-3491 or email

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