On Aug. 11, 2017, Steve Svehla of Rough Road Rescue in Perry County Missouri, was jailed and charged with felony animal stealing. The charges stemmed from a drawn out legal battle over a dog Svehla had adopted out from his shelter several years ago.
The dog named Mack had gotten loose from his owner, Jamie Patterson. When Mack was not immediately located Patterson put up posters all over Perry County offering a reward for Mack’s return.
Svehla got wind of Mack’s escape, offered a (bigger) reward, and was able to find and retrieve the dog. But then Svehla refused to return Mack to Patterson.
Patterson sued Svehla and the rescue, and won. Svehla appealed and lost again. Not one, but two courts ordered the dog returned to Patterson.
Svehla refused and stalled repeatedly. He was jailed at least once for contempt. He eventually attempted to turn over a box of ashes to local authorities insisting the dog had died and that the ashes were his cremated remains.
Mack was later discovered alive and well and was eventually returned to his family.
That’s when the state pressed charges against Svehla for stealing the animal; a felony in Missouri. Svehla retained an attorney with intentions of fighting the charge and telling all the details he felt were pertinent to his case, and that he felt had been untold. He pled not guilty to the charge.
It eventually became painfully obvious that he would not be able to beat a charge he had already admitted to publicly. Svehla’s reasons for taking the dog did not expunge him from the fact he had committed a crime by taking someones property and then ignored two separate court orders to return it. The deceptive act of turning over ashes, instead of the dog, only complicated matters worse for Svehla’s case.
On Oct. 2, 2018 Svehla changed his plea to guilty of felony animal stealing. He was sentenced to a suspended imposition of sentence (SIS) and placed on probation for a period of five years under the supervision of the Board of Probation and Parole.
With SIS, if the defendant violates probation and faces revocation, the Judge may order any sentence within the full range of punishment for the crime convicted.
Special conditions of Svehla’s probation are: 1) Obey all laws. 2) Pay court costs and CVCF judgment. 3) Defendant shall have no direct or indirect contact with victim: Jamie Patterson 4) Defendant shall not post on social media anything about the dog, Ms. Patterson or this case.
Under these conditions, any further public commentary about this case from Svehla could cause a revocation of his probation.
Missouri statutes state than anyone convicted of an animal crime cannot hold a license to a rescue, shelter, or other animal welfare organization. It remains to be seen whether or not a suspended imposition of sentence is considered a conviction since there is five years of probation to consider before the conviction is complete, if ever.