Fairfield woman accepts plea deal in animal cruelty case
The owner of a former pet grooming boutique charged with more than 200 counts of animal cruelty avoided a possible 98-year jail sentence Monday by accepting a plea deal that will give her two years probation and require her to pay $5,000 in restitution to a humane organization.
Alexsandria Klochak, 54, of Fairfield Township agreed to plead guilty in proceedings before Common Pleas Judge Christopher Feliciani to 14 third-degree felony charges of aggravated animal cruelty, undergo a mental health evaluation and pay $5,000 in restitution to All But Furgotten, a North Huntingdon animal rescue organization. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dismissed 224 summary charges of neglect and animal cruelty, but prohibited her from owning any pets while on probation.
By taking the plea deal, Klochak’s parents, Richard, 76, and Yvonne Klochak, 73, were allowed to enter into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for first-time nonviolent offenders. Their deals could enable them to eventually have their records expunged.
Klochak accepted the plea deal from the Westmoreland County District Attorney’s office about an hour after rejecting the same offer. That initial decision also scuttled the plea agreements for parents, Richard Klochak, who is confined to a wheelchair, and Yvonne, who walks with a cane.
“I just can’t go through with this. I’m sorry,” a tearful Klochak told Feliciani and her parents, who were sitting next to her in court.
The judge instructed the trio to get attorneys through the public defender’s office and said a trial date would be set. If found guilty of the 14 felony counts, Alexsandria Klochak could receive up to 98 years in prison and be fined $300,000.
The charges stem from a March 14, 2018, inspection of the Klochaks’ home in Ross Mountain Park, by humane officers from All But Furgotten in North Huntingdon. Agents described the house in court documents as flea invested and filthy, seizing nearly 100 dogs and cats.
Humane officers said Alexsandria Klochak lives in the home, which is owned by her parents.
The Klochaks appeared before Feliciani without attorneys after more than a year of delays in the case.
Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Calisti told Feliciani she was ready to proceed to trial despite numerous delays. Court officials said the delays were caused in part by a civil lawsuit filed by the animal rescue seeking about $270,000 in veterinary and animal care costs and forfeiture of the animals removed from the home. All But Furgotten still has some cats taken from the home, available for adoption, an All But Furgotten spokeswoman said.
That civil complaint was not resolved in the plea bargain accepted Monday.
Alexsandria apologized to Feliciani for the repeated delays, saying her parents’ health issues and a traffic accident earlier this year were factors.
When the younger Klochak was offered a plea bargain, she began to sob in court and asked for time to discuss it with her parents. Calisti explained that the elder Klochaks could enter the ARD program.
When the Klochaks returned from speaking in the rear of the courtroom, Alexsandria informed Feliciani they would accept the pleas.
“I’m taking this for my parents’ sakes,” she declared.
But as Feliciani began explaining terms of the plea, Alexsandria stopped the judge and said her guilty plea to a felony charge would prohibit her from returning to work in a casino.
Feliciani responded to her change of heart.
“I’ll tell you these (pleas) sound like a no-brainer to me … rather than going to trial. They seem like pretty generous terms,” Feliciani said. “During a motion hearing in this case … I saw pictures the humane officers took of the house and no animals should have to live in those type of conditions.”
She formerly operated Sandy Paws pet boutique on North Fairfield Street in Ligonier.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .