Jessica Yazmer was on a mission, her attorney said. The Canton woman wanted desperately to save endangered dogs by finding new homes but she misjudged a wave of unwanted animals streaming from high-kill shelters in the South.
“She not only had the best interests of these animals at heart, she saved dozens of animals from certain death,” said Jon L. Schoenhorn, a Hartford-based attorney.
Yazmer, 28, was after 40 dogs and some cats were found in life-threatening conditions in her two-bedroom Collinsville apartment at 14A Center St. Police were called on the report of a dog fight.
On Wednesday, Yazmer appeared in Hartford Community Court and was ordered to perform . She was not asked to enter a plea and was not fined under the community court process.
“Jessica Yazmer ran a rescue service – she rescued animals from kill shelters,” Schoenhorn said Thursday. “She fed them, she took care of them, but it just became too much.”
Schoenhorn, a veteran criminal defense attorney who took part in legal efforts to prevent the execution of serial killer Michael Ross in 2005, acknowledged the public anger in the case. He also specializes in First Amendment law.
“The media attention, I think, was unfair and over the top,” he said.
Reaction from the public has been strong as well, as witnessed in the Patch comments and elsewhere.
The court placed no restrictions on Yazmer’s ability to work with animals again, Schoenhorn said. Yazmer was scheduled to return to court Dec. 8 to show proof of community service. The type of community service was not specified by the court.
“She has the right to perform [community service] at any non-profit governmental organization,” Schoenhorn said.
Yazmer, a 2001 graduate of Simsbury High School, was listed in a pet adoption website as a representative for a Collinsville-based organization that rescued dogs from high-kill shelters in the South.
“We have the shipping records; they just kept sending more [dogs],” Schoenhorn said. “They figured it was cheaper to send these animals – and she paid for the transport – than to just kill these animals, which is what these pounds in the South were doing.”
The dogs in Yazmer’s home, including nearly 20 puppies, all survived. Many were treated for worms and other diseases, said Beverly LaPlume, animal control officer for Canton and Avon.
“None of these dogs had food or water,” LaPlume said at the time. “There were feces all over the floor … black flies and other bugs.”
deemed the apartment unfit for human occupancy on July 6.
LaPlume said Yazmer was trying to do a good thing but “this totally got out of hand.”
LaPlume has, however, has not minced words about the situation being the worst she's seen.
"The conditions were horrendous,” she said in a previous interview. “The apartment not being fit for occupancy says it all.”
Some shelters in the South routinely advertise dogs that are scheduled to be euthanized, and Yazmer was apparently unable to resist, her attorney said.
“It became too many for her small dwelling,” Schoenhorn said. “She couldn’t keep up with the amount of waste they produced.”
Cherry Brook Kennels and Roaring Brook Kennels in Canton initially . Roaring Brook handled some puppy adoptions but was gradually overwhelmed with requests.
The Simon Foundation in Bloomfield took over all adoptions.
On Thursday, LaPlume didn't comment on the community service but did say she was happy all the dogs survived and were finding good homes.
"Out of a terrible situation, they were all placed in wonderful homes," she said.
The court also will allow Yazmer to be reunited with her own dog, Schoenhorn said.
“She loves animals. And she never mistreated these animals,” Schoenhorn said.