APL agents discovered 146 dead dogs at the Mantua home of a canine ‘rescuer’

The head of a local nonprofit animal rescue is facing what could be multiple charges of animal cruelty after agents found 146 dead dogs at her home in Mantua Township.

On June 16, the Portage Animal Protective League Humane Investigations Department executed a search warrant at a home owned by Barbara A. Wible, president and co-founder of Canine Lifeline.

Inside the two-story brick house, set back from the street in a pocket of woods at 5163 State Route 82, the humane agent discovered the dogs in various states of decay. No dogs were still alive, the APL said.

“Many of the dogs were found confined within their crates,” a June 19 APL press release states.

This discovery followed a June 5 felony warrant for Wible’s arrest after police in Parma said she deprived 36 dogs of food and water and “caused serious physical harm to 12 of the 36 companion animals” at another home she owns at 5691 W. Ridgewood Drive.

Under Ohio law, fifth-degree felonies are punishable by six months to a year in prison. 

As of Tuesday morning, no charges against Wible have been filed in Portage County.

Crews from the Mantua-Shalersville Fire District were on scene in Mantua, having been alerted that a fuel tank was leaking into the ground behind the home. Personnel from the fire department and the Environmental Protection Agency mitigated the leak and left, Fire Chief Matt Roosa said. No one was at the home, he added.

Roosa said his peek inside the house and observation of the grounds led him to believe that Wible’s property was in “hoarder type condition.” He declined further comment, noting that the case remains under investigation by the APL.

Animal autopsies will be performed to determine the dogs’ official causes of death. Portage APL Executive Director Chalan Lowry declined to provide additional information.

A neighbor identified as Jon Collier told WKYC that the state of the home and everything in it was “just horrendous” and said he hadn’t seen Wible for six or eight months.

Canine Lifeline’s website states that it acquires dogs from pounds in Ohio and Kentucky, and attempts to place the animals with forever homes so they won’t be euthanized.

A June 19 post on Canine Lifeline’s website said its volunteers are “shocked, horrified and confused to learn of the devastating revelations regarding its president and co-founder, Barb Wible, and the dogs that suffered in her home.”

Wible, the post said, was hospitalized June 2 after having been found collapsed in her home.

“After first responders reported to her home in response to this medical emergency, an investigation was triggered that has uncovered overwhelming evidence of ongoing fatal animal neglect in both her current Parma residence as well as her former home in Mantua,” the post states.

No Canine Lifeline volunteers were ever given access to either of Wible’s homes, and none were aware of the number of dogs she harbored, nor the condition of her home, the post states. No one associated with Canine Lifeline was aware of Wible’s medical situation, and she had never indicated that she needed help, the post continues.

“Wible was a very private person who appeared, to us, to be devoted to these rescue animals; it appeared to be her life’s passion, and we are sickened and blindsided to learn this was a facade,” the organization said.

Canine Lifeline volunteers, who have placed over 6,000 dogs with adoptive families since its founding, are cooperating with authorities, the post states.

The post indicates that the surviving dogs found at Wible’s Parma residence were taken to Parma Animal Shelter, where they are being cared for. 

Canine Lifeline volunteers who are fostering dogs will continue to do so and will continue with adoptions, the post concludes. The nonprofit’s website does not list a phone number, and an email to the organization was not returned.

According to paperwork filed with the Ohio Secretary of State, Wible, Lynn Marie Jewell of Bedford, and Stephanie Anne Hulett of Garfield Heights organized Canine Lifeline as a nonprofit entity in 2009, and filed a required statement of continued existence in 2014.

After the directors failed to file a second statement of continued existence in 2019, the state canceled the nonprofit as a legal entity. However, in 2021 the Ohio Secretary of State reinstated Canine Lifeline, listing North Canton attorney M. Diane Neal as director and secretary. The other names do not appear on the 2021 filings.

Neal did not respond to The Portager’s request for comment.

Chas Modonio, founder of Portage County’s Modonio Animal Trust, said he had never heard of Canine Lifeline and was “sickened” by the news.

Mantua Township Trustee Matt Benner said he had never heard of Wible, who is about 68 years old, according to public records. Benner said the trustees have not fielded any complaints involving her in the four years he has been in office. 

Trustee John Festa said he anticipates being called back to the house if only to begin condemnation proceedings.

+ posts

Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.