Officials Receive Backlash Over Animal Cruelty Sentences

FAYETTE COUNTY, W.Va. (WOAY) – Fayette County officials are receiving backlash after two controversial animal cruelty convictions last week.

Walker Keller and Candice Adkins plead guilty to separate cases of animal cruelty. Keller admitted to kicking a chained dog, causing a busted lip. Adkins abandoned a dog at home, allowing it to starve to death.

“It’s heartbreaking to see a dog come into our shelter who is skin and bones, is scared to death [and] feels that anybody that approaches them is going to harm them,” said Kathy Gerencer with the New River Humane Society.

Keller was sentenced to 15 days in jail. Adkins was ordered to report to the Day Reporting Center for 60 days. Facebook users immediately criticized the sentences, complaining that they were far from enough. Although many call for harsher sentences, the maximum penalty on misdemeanor animal abuse cases is only six months in jail.

In some cases, prosecutors may pursue a lesser sentence if there isn’t enough evidence to completely prove guilt.

“That’s kind of what happened in both of these cases,” said prosecuting attorney Larry Harrah. “We’ve had allegations made, but when you get down to it and you actually look at the situation, how do I prove that that dog died [of starvation]?”

Because of their crimes, both Keller and Adkins cannot own an animal for the next five years.

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Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.