After 3 years, dogs seized for alleged cruelty still locked up in Fulton County

Saffron sits in a special kennel at the Fulton County Animal Shelter. It's been her home for three years.

All sides insist they care. But no one seems able to break an impasse that has left several Cane Corso dogs from a cruelty case languishing for three years in the Fulton County Animal Shelter.

Animal advocates complained a year ago when the FOX 5 I-Team first reported this story.

Now, another year has gone by, and so far no one seems willing to find a solution.

"To me, it’s almost criminal that it’s been this long," complained Rebecca Simonski, president of the Cane Corso Association of America. "It’s a living being. You’re not arguing over a couch."

Rebecca Simonski, president of the Cane Corso Association of America, said the breed is especially vulnerable to emotional abuse if kept away from their home for an extended time.

In January 2020, Fulton County Animal Control officers charged Ceclynn Sherrer with multiple counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. They cited "unsanitary conditions" and "lack of adequate shelter" for the nine Cane Corsos she had in her possession.

Similar to Italian Mastiffs, the Corsos can weigh 150 pounds and are sometimes bred for puppies to be sold at high prices.

"They tried to say as if I was abusing them, but they’re very, very expensive dogs and I don’t know people who would have that nice of a dog just to abuse it," Sherrer said when the FOX 5 I-Team first met her in January 2022.

She’s fighting the charges. For the last three years, five of the original dogs have lived in metal fenced kennels in a building behind the Fulton County Animal Shelter. Most of the others are with foster families, including two litters of puppies, one group accidentally conceived in the shelter.

Cecylnn Sherrer denies she abused her dogs. The College Park woman refuses to release them so they can be adopted out of the shelter. 

At first, the pandemic delayed any prosecution. In June 2020, Fulton County petitioned a judge to force Sherrer to pay $5,400 a month for their care or surrender her dogs. That way the county could adopt them out and leave the shelter.

Instead, Sherrer filed bankruptcy.

And because Sherrer listed her 13 dogs as property, they became protected assets, forcing the judge to dismiss the Cost of Care petition.

A Fulton County spokesperson said taxpayers have spent $65,700 so far to care for the Cane Corsos.

Sherrer’s bankruptcy may not be a factor anymore. Twice it’s been dismissed because, according to court records, she failed to make the monthly payments to her creditors. 

But Fulton County attorneys have yet to file a new Cost of Care petition.

Simonski doesn’t know Sherrer. But the Cobb County resident and longtime Cane Corso advocate certainly knows the breed and the harm three years of confinement can cause.

"They’re more sensitive than you’d expect," she said. "So putting them in a shelter environment and taking them away from everything they know is hard on them."

Fulton County earlier returned two Corsos to Sherrer because of illness or old age.

Simonski thinks the rest should go home as well, if no one cares enough to get the case to trial.

"Three years in, it’s really not good for them," she insisted. "Reaching the point now where was it more cruel to take them? Or to leave them?"

A spokesperson for the Fulton County Solicitor’s Office said they’re working to get the case to trial. An August 2022 trial date had be canceled because Sherrer’s attorney Ed Furr was required to be in another court for a different client.

He blamed Fulton County for the dogs’ plight.

"That’s on them," he said. "They didn’t have to seize those dogs. They didn’t have to be kept for evidence for three years under those horrific conditions."

Furr said this case could be tried as early as next month, but so far no date has been scheduled.