By Jean Pattison
African Queen Aviaries
Lakeland, FL

This was written on 12-18-06 with some additions as they developed, and the final today 8-2-07. All the italic from page three on, is the updated material.

I sat down last night about dusk, wanting to write this article and didn't know where to start, or if it would even be read, or do any good. All of a sudden I heard one of my small Poicephalus screaming wildly. I knew something was horribly wrong. I ran out to find a hawk flat against the side of one of my flight cages with a mirror image of a little Red-bellied flattened against the inside of the cage wall. The wire on the cages is only 1/2″ X 1″ wire, and there is only six inches of space between the cages. Somehow the hawk squeezed between the cages and partition and was able to grab my little male Red-bellied. I quickly scared off the hawk and grabbed my little Red-bellied out of his flight cage. I saw no blood anywhere and he only favored one leg a bit, so I think he will be okay, just a bit scared ... well a lot scared. He is now in a holding cage in the house under my watchful eye.

I came back to the computer with tears streaming down my cheeks, thinking to myself, is this all really worth it?

There are so many things we breeders have to worry about. Birds becoming ill, working many hours a day cleaning cages and feeding the flock, the public's perception that we are factory farms, when in reality we are lucky to have our birds breeding and healthy. We don't take vacations with our loved ones, since we can't find good help to take care of our flock while gone. We worry about theft, and never leave the premises at night. Since working on the Florida theft committee with Jan Schotenlore and Linda Meade for three years, there is much I learned, and learned what to be afraid of.

If we didn't love our birds so much, I am sure a lot of breeders would just throw in the towel.

Thieves know what they are doing. For many years now, I do not go to bed until 2 or 3 a.m. and then my husband gets up and patrols the property until daylight. We did once have 2 men climbing over our back fence with burlap bags, to steal some of our birds. So the vigilance does pay off.

When I retrieved my little Red-bellied from the clutches of the hawk, I was angry, very angry. So much we go through. We are judged by every group o f animal people there are, starting with rescue organizations, pet people, bird behavior consultants, anti-breeding groups, pet "over population" groups - and then there was the ordeal of September 10th, 2006. A lot of professional breeders and aviculturists have just gone through this ordeal together, and this is the reason for my article.

The ordeal I refer to was an injustice perpetrated by a new kind of "thief" - "thieves" who do their dirty work under color of "legal authority" - "thieves" who operate using the "letter of the law" against innocent and law abiding animal breeders - "thieves" who can steal our animals from us when we are doing nothing wrong. Those "thieves" are those officers employed as law enforcement officers and animal shelter personnel who believe in the "animal rights" philosophy and religion - people who do not believe that we should breed animals to be sold as pets. President Bush calls religious fundamentalist terrorists "evil doers." We now have to deal with another kind of fundamentalist terrorist "evil doer" - the "animal rights evil doers" who take our animals from us because their "animal rights" religion tells them they should, by whatever means available.

Early in the morning of September 10th, while a breeder was at a bird expo for the weekend, a group of terrorist evil-doers entered her home and proceeded to remove approximately 35 pairs of her breeding cockatiels, mostly show cockatiels, as well as a few other species and her pet birds. The total birds removed were at about 100. Cage trays were removed and dumped on the floor; cages were turned on their sides, with nest boxes containing newly hatched chicks and fertile eggs. The cages were then shoved into waiting vans. Naturally the chicks were smothered and died, and eggs addled and embryos killed. The terrorist evil doers claimed that they had been told they could move breeding pairs without harming or upsetting the birds. Wonder what expert told them that? The evil-doers removed all the animals on the property, and took them to a warehouse to conceal their loot.

Just a bit over three months passed and the birds were retrieved from the holding facility by their owner on December 16. I was in attendance. Many of the birds were thinner than when they were taken. Many were very plucked and tattered from being overcrowded. Some of the birds were even in too small of cages for the species, as well as not being as clean as they should have been. Birds, including breeder birds, had their bands removed while in the custody of the evil doers. While working the theft committee for three years, this is the same scenario we saw over and over again.

The terrorist evil-doers in this story? The SPCA of Pinellas County Florida! And to make matters worse, the animal removal was all done under the supervision of the local sheriffs department.

As the story unfolds, a disgruntled neighbor called the sheriff about barking dogs. The sheriff entered the house through a back door that she claimed was left open, and found the birds, in what was in her “opinion” an abusive situation. The bird that started it all was sun conure with a plucked chest that the breeder had just gotten from a friend that was retiring. The sheriff concluded that this bird must be abused! The sheriff didn't know to take into account the very visible fat chest, and perky attitude of the bird. Animal Control was then called in and refused to take the animals, seeing no violations. The undeterred sheriff then called the SPCA, who will gladly confiscate any animals. This is great publicity and sympathy always brings in money. This particular SPCA has on their website, if called anonymously they will hold your name in confidence, and "SPCA Humane Officers will follow up on your information. Every attempt is made to improve the animal's situation through owner education and persuasion. When this does not lead to positive results, the SPCA works closely with city and county law enforcement officers to correct the situation."

(The pictures on the web pages are not of this breeder's birds. These are from a more recent case.)

In our case, the owner's friend arrived at the owner's home, as requested by the owner, to check up on the birds and newly hatched babies as well as check on their food and water. The friend was arrested for animal cruelty. The owner was called and said she would return home immediately. The police and the SPCA told her they would not wait, and took all the animals. I assume they don't read their own web page. Once the breeder's friend arrived one would have thought since there was a caretaker on premises, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) could have been called. We Florida breeders are licensed and governed by the FWC, which regularly inspects bird breeders. If there are violations they issue a warning and return to reinspect the facility to verify that the violations have been corrected. In extreme cased they will confiscate.

Thanks only to Fred Smith, the regional director of the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA), in his tenacity to get to the bottom of this, were the breeders in Florida made aware of this injustice. The regional director, Fred Smith, wanted to know if one of our AFA members was really as bad as the news media portrayed, and investigate the accused member. Fred Smith went to the SPCA to see what the conditions of the birds were.

Upon arriving at the SPCA and seeing the birds, Fred was shocked at how well t he birds looked, and none were in any type of abused or neglected condition. Fred, like the rest of the public, had read the newspaper accounts and had seen the TV news stories about how abused and neglected the birds were and that they were in horrible condition. Fred, along with attending every bird expo in Florida educating people about the care of birds and promoting the AFA, tending his own flock of breeding birds, and fulfilling his regional director duties, spent the time uncovering facts and investigating the circumstances around this confiscation.

Once Fred was satisfied with the breeders care of her birds, we were all made aware of the case. Fred spent countless hours on the phone, and one call was made to the Florida Federation of Aviculture Inc. (FFAI). The FFAI, working with the AFA, was brought up to speed and immediately started their own investigation, and held an emergency meeting.

Notices were put out by Fred and other FFAI members with the date of the first court hearing. The SPCA was filing a petition for ownership not only of the confiscated birds, but also for any other birds owned elsewhere by the breeder, and her friend. They petitioned for fines and jail time to be imposed on the breeder and her friend, and they asked the court to order that the owner and her friend were to never own birds again. They also asked for a court order that the breeder pay all boarding fees and other costs incurred by the SPCA. The fees and costs to date are approximately $13,000.00.

During all this time, there was an ongoing criminal investigation, so no information was, or could be, given out to the public or to the news media. In many animal confiscation cases, the criminal charges against the animal owner are dropped as soon as the confiscating party is granted permanent possession of the animals. This is a pressure tactic and a ploy used by the prosecution to keep the truth and any evidence from being obtained by the animal owner or by the media while the confiscating party pursues their confiscation case. This case followed that modus operandi. In this case, the breeder won her birds back in court, and all criminal charges have now been dropped against the breeder and her friend. In this case the owner of the birds fought back, and won her birds back, against seemingly overwhelming odds that she would not be able to successfully fight the powerful and arrogant SPCA.

The hearings spanned three months and were grueling. The first court hearing was attended by approximately 20 aviculturists. It was very obvious to all the aviculturists and professional breeders in the courtroom that the SPCA personnel and lawyers knew virtually nothing about birds, or breeding birds, or their anatomy or diseases, or their proper maintenance. The entire SPCA team (including the sheriff's officer who first arrived on the scene, all of the testifying SPCA personnel, their testifying veterinarians, and their attorneys) was in way over their heads. Some of the testimony presented by SPCA witnesses regarding the care the SPCA was giving to the birds made it clear that the SPCA did not know how to care for any bird, much less care for a flock of breeding birds. They used bleach in their cleaning solution to clean the birds' area, resulting in damage to the birds' respiratory systems. They fed the birds incorrectly, resulting in some of the birds developing diarrhea.

As most bird owners know, when food unfamiliar is offered, birds can literally starve to death refusing to eat. Birds do not comprehend that this unfamiliar looking stuff in their food bowl is food. Food changes require long periods of slow introduction, so they can learn it is food.

They incorrectly assumed that vials of polyoma vaccine found at the breeder's home were medications for diseased birds, and they demonstrated that they knew virtually nothing about bird diseases or treatment for bird diseases. The vet for the SPCA was a dog and cat vet with an interest in birds, but she was at least ten years behind the times in the evolution regarding avian medicine and care.

As the prosecution continued to put on their case they were oblivious to the fact that most of their witnesses' statements were idiotic and that their evidence simply served to demonstrate their ignorance about birds and bird care. It became clear that the SPCA was accustomed to winning animal confiscation cases based on unfounded allegations and with hardly any effort.

We were not intimidated. Of course, we realized that this biased, unbalanced, and inaccurate information that was being presented to the judge by those who knew practically nothing about birds was all the judge was hearing, and we realized that if we expected to prevail we needed an expert who knew about birds to testify - otherwise the case was going to be a "slam dunk" for the prosecution. We needed an avian specialist. Jan and I called veterinarians all over the state. Other members were working with their vets trying to get them on board. We were told that no vets could afford the time off from their practices to testify on the breeder's behalf. Many told us to walk away and let them have the birds - we were told "you can't win against the SPCA." Defense costs were already running into the thousands, and hiring an avian vet as an expert witness was beyond the means of this breeder.

Despite all the nay-sayers, and all the cautions that we could never win against the SPCA, we were not willing to abandon the breeder or our cause. Individual members of the Florida Federation of Aviculture started donating money for a vet. Two bird clubs in Florida, the Imperial Bird Club, and the Jacksonville Bird Club both donated $500.00 each for vet costs. To them I am eternally grateful. Some clubs and organizations refused to get involved, for fear of the SPCA or some other organization making them targets for harassment. This is another fear we breeders are now faced with. If we help, will we suffer too?

Then there were individuals that convicted this breeder because she was arrested. People put up signs at bird expos denouncing this breeder, although nothing had even gone to court yet. Bird clubs held meetings to decide whether this breeder should be allowed at any of their events, and then there were people that listened to the rumor mills, or just didn't like the breeder, and would not become involved. Many listened to what the news media had said about the breeder and based all their opinions on the biased news reporters.

Many aviculturists attended all four hearings. Dr. Margaret Wissman, a board certified avian veterinarian, agreed to be a witness for the defendant and testified at the last hearing. It is my belief that her testimony made it clear to the judge that the allegations which the SPCA had made about disease and perceived cruelty and neglect were not a truthful picture of the situation - Dr. Wissman made it clear to the judge that the breeder was not cruel or abusive or neglectful - and that her testimony is what turned the case in the breeder's favor. Although the judge had reached a verdict the last day of court, the SPCA attorneys failed to sign off for another two weeks. The petition from the SPCA was denied in its entirety - the SPCA lost on every count. The judge ordered the SPCA to return all of the birds and other animals to their owner.

Even when a defendant is found innocent of animal cruelty, they may still be ordered to pay all attorneys fees, court costs, and boarding, vet bills and food costs, as well as any other incidental costs, such as buying new perches, or food and water dishes. In this case the judge ruled against the defendant paying any of those fees. The judge also ordered the SPCA to pay back the loan given by the FFAI, to help the defendant with Dr. Wissman's payment for testifying, and cost of transcripts needed by Dr. Wissman prior to her testifying.

The supposedly abused conure had been vaccinated against polyoma (proven in court) just two days prior to the confiscation. When the attending vet did exams and tests on a few select birds, this one turned up with a high titer for polyoma. Of course the vet proclaimed the bird may be a carrier, or diseased bird. Polyoma is not dangerous to humans, so it was really a moot point. The fact that the breeder vaccinated all her birds against polyoma spoke volumes about her care of her birds. Rarely do breeders vaccinate all their birds against polyoma. The second polyoma test, taken weeks later, showed the same titer level, so disease should not have been an issue. Babies were hatching and thriving, and with no deaths of chicks or ill birds, it is almost a positive sign there is no pathogen present in the flock of birds. Dr. Wissman was able to show that this was indeed true.

The issue of e-coli was brought up, since trash with contents from the cage trays stored in a plastic bag for three days, cultured positive for e-coli. What the SPCA vet failed to relate was that it was of the strain mucosa, and non-pathogenic. Instead, she made the judge well aware that e-coli can kill birds as well as humans. With the recent scare in the news of e-coli sickness and deaths from contaminated spinach, this would make anyone sit up and take notice. The vet for the SPCA was presented a paper from one of the most well known avicultural vets in the country, entitled, The Truth About E-coli by Darrel Styles. The vet admitted to never having heard of him, and what he had written was wrong. Her belief was any gram negative bacteria found in a bird is bad.

Fortunately, Dr. Wissman made us aware of the strain of e-coli, and pronounced it as a wild strain, and definitely non-pathogenic. She also went on to tell about the other testing that would have been done, if indeed she thought it was a pathogen.

There was a concern that some of the birds had conjunctivitis when confiscated. In court there were no pictures to substantiate this claim, and again Dr. Wissman saw no evidence in any of the lab reports to support the conjunctivitis, and put that to rest.

The vet for the SPCA reported that the birds were low in calcium, and this was due to the breeder forcing them into excessive egg laying. She pointed out that during egg laying calcium levels are normally higher to help egg formation. Birds were treated for low calcium with supplements. Dr. Wissman showed that indeed yes the calcium level would be higher, but she pointed out that the SPCA was told (by their veterinarian) to remove the eggs already laid, and that the SPCA had already removed chicks from the parents. When clutches of babies or eggs are removed, or destroyed by predators, cockatiels start laying again to replace the lost clutch. This overtaxes the calcium level and the birds do indeed become low in calcium. This was not the fault of the breeder, but of the SPCA.

One bird with a wing injury was given steroids. Steroids are usually only given to parrots in life and death situations, since steroids break down the immune system and can cause death.

The issue of the bands being removed. Open bands if applied properly, do not cause a risk. If the SPCA vet saw any improperly applied bands, they could have been turned and refitted. At the very least, a smaller band applied to keep track of breeding records. The bands are made especially to guard against causing a risk when applied properly. There were years of genetic tracking dependant on the bands, and may now be lost forever. In past cases, birds worth hundreds even thousands of dollars can become worthless once the band is removed, unless the genetic line can be validated. Perhaps if they can't neuter the animals they remove the bands to devalue their blood lines, and make them worthless for breeding.

Existing law in Florida can be, and are, used to harm breeders and animal owners. We have a statute in Florida that gives any law enforcement officer the right to call any recognized agency (such as the SPCA, animal control, Humane Society, and even some rescues) to immediately confiscate animals, without a warrant and without a hearing, if they in their opinion, feel there is any animal neglect or cruelty. They do not have to call FWC, the only organization that has training in exotic animals here in Florida. This law creates a very serious situation for all of us - a situation that gives us all something new to fear. All of us who own birds and other animals now have to recognize that "public perception" may be the standard used to judge us when allegations of animal abuse and neglect are made against us by law enforcement or "animal welfare" personnel. "Public perception" may or may not be accurate or truthful, but it will be used by law enforcement and "animal welfare" personnel to make judgments in an area in which they have no training or expertise. "Public perception," when it is not based on fact, can wreak havoc on any enterprise, especially in the area of breeding birds.

We also must remember that most of the "animal welfare" organizations that claim to have the best interest of the animals first and foremost, are against breeding animals of any kind. Many of them support the philosophy of "animal rights," which contends that animals are not ours to use. They especially do not believe in breeding animals to be sold as pets. Many of them do not believe that we have the right to own or use animals of any kind for food, for fiber, for research, for entertainment, or as pets. Those same organizations, who have been given the power under existing law to allege animal abuse by their owners, and who have been given the power to confiscate animals from their owners without a warrant and without a hearing, are fundamentally and philosophically biased against breeders. Existing law allows these organizations to be our accusers, our judges, and our executioners, and they revel in that power - they are the poster children for the saying "Power Corrupts - And Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely." They have an absolute conflict of interest when it comes to any case involving breeders, and they should not be allowed to participate in any confiscation cases - yet the law allows them to freely operate and freely confiscate despite this clear conflict of interest. Of course these organizations will confiscate, at the mere hint of a dirty water bowl or recently spilled food. Many of these people see problems where none exist, or knowingly create them - as was done in this case. The sheriff's officer ordered the barking dogs (who had been found loose in the yard) to be tied up next to a dirty water bowl, then had photographs taken of the situation as "evidence" of their "abuse" by their owner. The sheriff testified in court there were cock roaches everywhere. The investigator for the SPCA said he never saw a cockroach. He added there were seed moths, and perhaps gnats. Of course, we all know that the presence of a seed moths in a bloom, indicates fresh seed, and is not an indicator of "filth."

I was there when the birds were picked up from the SPCA. When we arrived there, they did not know we were to pick up the birds, and made us wait about two hours before allowing us to enter their bird room. They only allowed three people to retrieve the birds, although when the SPCA took the birds, there were seven or eight people running in and out of the breeder's home and bird room. Looking back it is obvious they were trying to clean things up, and switching birds around before we were allowed to enter. They told us things had to be done quickly so as not to disturb the birds too much, but now we know now it was so we would not see some of the wrong doings that had been done. We didn't have time to investigate their condition, or housing. I saw dirty cages, and over crowding. Some cages that the breeder had only two birds in now contained five birds. Some missing birds were unaccounted for. Mates were switched, and although the vet for the SPCA was very concerned about the birds being low in calcium the SPCA put hens together causing excessive egg laying, of infertile eggs, naturally. It is scary to think the SPCA is unable to sex cockatiels properly, and do even more harm to the birds.

The ground quail that were confiscated were put on wire bottom cages, and this caused leg damage, even broken legs.

While retrieving the birds the SPCA did not allow the breeder to inventory the birds against the confiscation list. The SPCA stressed the need for quickly removing the birds as to not induce more stress. Once home and the breeder was able to compare the inventory against the confiscation list, it was found the most expensive breeder cockatiels were not there. Almost a year later they have not been accounted for. The following day a few birds were found dead in the cages. It became obvious (upon close inspection) this was due to the last minute switching around of birds, and putting birds in together that were aggressive, and they fought and killed each other. In some cases there are birds that should not be housed even near each other because of dislike for each other, and this induces stress. Breeders know which of their individual birds are prone to this, and place cages accordingly. One can't help but wonder how all the cages were housed together at the SPCA, and the stress induced there. Months after the release of the birds, a few have sporadically died of liver failure due to the SPCA over medicating the supposed sick birds. Breeders learned about over medicating and liver failure back in the 1980s, with birds coming through quarantine stations.

As we know, most organizations are legally exempt from any type of inspections. In most laws and statutes, most all animal welfare organizations are written in as being exempt from the same inspection laws that govern the owners or breeders of their animals. We ask ourselves why these organizations are above the law. Because the law says so.

So now, not only are we afraid to leave our birds at night, we cannot leave during the day either. In the event my dog would escape the yard and cause a car accident, a sheriff would come out to my property and up to my door. As he walked along the pathway, he may see a bowl full of water (changed an hour ago) just full of mushy pellets, and smelling like, well you all know what it smells like. He may see a bird in a small cage that is being medicated, or under veterinary care. What would his perception be, and would he call the SPCA or humane society, or even a rescue organization? When I would arrive back home from shopping for veggies and other good bird food, would my birds all be there, or would they have been taken to some secret place where I could not see, or find out about them?

Thank you AFA for Fred Smith. Thank you FFAI for your work in this and thank you, Imperial Bird Club and Jacksonville Bird club, for your monetary support in this effort. Thank you Dr. Wissman for your support of aviculture. We could not have done it without you.

Many people behind the scenes worked tirelessly on this case, and studied the FWC regulations as well as county and state statutes. I am very grateful to all that pitched in and did work and made donations in the name of aviculture. Many people from out of state gave their support and donations as well, and I thank all of you too.

After this experience, and seeing the support of the avicultural community, I know that yes, it is all worth it.

Click here to read Jean's original article.


Okay, we've all had a laugh over ASPCA's new "Animal CSI" van that they send out with their forensic vet into the field to gather and process evidence of animal abuse, but we'd better wipe the smiles off our faces.

Last night, I had a rather lengthy and chilling discussion with a person who was the victim of a joint Local Shelter/HSUS/ASPCA raid on his property. They told me that the 'raiders' had deliberately waited until nobody was home before they 'swooped in' along with local cops to execute their warrant. The dog owners came home near the end of the raid, and were prevented by police from going near their own property until all the dogs had been removed.

So, that's problem No. 1: if nobody is home, unless the animals are in imminent danger of death or injury, no warrant should ever be executed. Also, if you're not there, you can't verify that they properly executed their warrant in terms of where they looked, what was searched and what was actually taken.

But it gets worse! I was told that these people recently had a couple of litters on the ground and team found a dead puppy during their search which they immediately bagged and waved around, making certain it was well-photographed and filmed as "proof" of the "inhumane and filthy" conditions on this property.

Only one problem: the dead puppy was a different breed than any of those on the property.

That's right, folks, the dead puppy was planted during the raid!

I was told that based on what happened in this situation, several people who had been big HSUS supporters had finally seen with their own eyes the completely illegal and unethical tactics used against this person, and quit over the incident.

Someone came forward to say that HSUS and other agencies which participate in these raids come "armed" with dead animals, parts of dead animals or the bones of dead animals which they plant and then pretend to find during their raid

This also points to an extreme amount of collusion between the local shelter and HSUS/other extremist agencies coordinating raids ahead of time, because SOMEBODY had to have known about the recent litters so the dead puppy ploy could be used.

If ASPCA is on site with their clever little van, then they and NOT law enforcement have control of the evidence--real or otherwise--and you may have no way to protect yourself from being framed.

So, while we may groan over AKC's requirement to have our breeding adults DNA typed, doing so might literally save your rear end in court!

Once your dogs are seized, you'll never see them again and AKC's DNA typing might be the cheapest insurance policy you could ever have to prove that dead puppy didn't come from your kennel.

(As always, permission to cross post granted)


By Shar Porier/wick communications
Published: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 10:36 AM CST

BISBEE - The seizure of a number of dogs from an Elfrida breeder in April 2008 by a county animal control officer has led to a tort complaint being filed against the county, the sheriff's office and members of an anti-puppy mill/animal rescue group.

Barbara and Bob Ratliff are suing the county, People Assisting Kindred Spirits (PAKS), Pencin Veterinary Clinic, Pantano Veterinary Clinic and various people accused of taking 29 dogs from their property based on a complaint of neglect that was several months old.

When the matter came before Judge David Morales on June 13, 2008, he tossed the warrant on the grounds of "staleness" and then stated that the dogs were to be returned to the owners.

The county appealed the decision by Morales, but Superior Court Judge Wallace Hoggatt upheld the decision Dec. 16, 2008.

On Feb. 9, 2009, Morales mandated the dogs be returned. The county failed to comply.

The Ratliffs' attorney Perry Hicks states in the tort claim, "It is obvious from the records attached to this claim there was never any intent to return the dogs to the Ratliffs, despite valid, lawful court orders. ... The dogs were farmed out and adopted off with the full knowledge and consent of (county animal control officer Crystal) Callahan, despite the dogs were in the custody and care of the Cochise County Sheriff's Office, were evidence in a criminal case and were subject to being returned to the Ratliffs if they prevailed. ... The loss of Barbara Ratliff's dogs is the direct result of the illegal search and seizure of the dogs and negligent acts of Cochise County, Officer Callahan, the sheriff's office and animal control, as well as the intentional acts of PAKS and members of PAKS."

The Ratliffs are now seeking damages from the county, the sheriff's department, the animal control division and Callahan. The Ratliffs allege unlawful search and seizure, wrongful taking of property, violation of the right to privacy, negligent entrustment and negligence as stated in the complaint filed Dec. 31 in Superior Court.

Also named in the suit are PAKS, Pencin Veterinary Clinic, Pantano Animal Clinic, Mary Pencin, Tipling, Donna Dunham, Karen Radcliff, Darlene Burnett, Mary Hinton, Sherry Hoard, Jenelle Rodenberg and associated people involved in allegations of civil conspiracy, malicious prosecution, and aiding and abetting tortious conduct.

Problems for the Ratliffs began in April 2008 with a search warrant. According to documents provided by Hicks, the warrant was based on a 4-month-old complaint made by Marjorie "Heidi" Tipling, a technician at the Pencin Veterinary Clinic in Willcox and a member of PAKS. Tipling stated in her complaint on March 31, 2008, to Callahan that the dogs were not being cared for, had no clean water, were infested with ticks, had eye and limb injuries, and had no food available to eat at the time of her "surprise shopper" visit in December 2007.

With the warrant in hand, Callahan took possession of four adult dogs and eight puppies on April 16, 2008, and transported the dogs to Pencin Veterinary Clinic in Willcox for evaluations. Callahan stated the dogs were suffering from "gum disease, eye problems, tick scabs, hernias and pale mucous membranes."

Callahan later returned and collected 17 more dogs from the Ratliffs on the grounds their medical health could not be determined without a "complete medical examination," documents show.

The Ratliffs requested the dogs be taken to their veterinarian in Bisbee, Dr. Charles Behney, until the matter could be resolved. Deputies told them the dogs would go to Pencin and transportation to Behney's could be arranged. But that didn't happen. Instead, six dogs were transported to Pantano veterinary clinic in Tucson and several were adopted out to other people involved with PAKS.

In an April 16, 2008, letter to the county, veterinarian Mary Pencin stated, "Today the Cochise County Animal Officer from Sierra Vista, Laurie, (no last name given), brought to the clinic and turned over to PAKS for treatment and adoption twelve dogs."

According to PAKS adoption agreements, adopters agree to "provide a foster animal with proper and routine veterinary care, including wellness exams, current required and recommended vaccinations and urgent emergency care as needed." The agreement also acknowledges that the owner of the animal has the "right to access the animal."

Copies of 10 foster care agreements from PAKS were provided to Hicks, but no other information was given about the whereabouts of the remaining 19 dogs.

In May 2008, the county filed a motion in Justice Court to have the Ratliffs forfeit the dogs.

But in June, Hicks filed a motion for dismissal of charges due to a "stale" search warrant. Tipling allegedly shopped Ratliff on December 20, 2007, yet waited until March 2008 to make a formal complaint. Then it took three more weeks for the animal control officer to act on the complaint.

Justice David Morales tossed the evidence found under the "stale" search warrant. He then dismissed the charges. He also ordered the county to transport the dogs to Behney's office at Ratliff's expense for examination and care.

The date of the transport of the dogs was set for June 27. However, Callahan stated in an affidavit that the dogs couldn't be transported because she didn't know where the dogs were.

The county appealed the decision by Morales and refused to return the dogs until the appeal had been heard. Superior Court Judge Wallace Hoggatt upheld the ruling by Morales in favor of the Ratliffs on Dec. 22, 2008.

Charges were dismissed with prejudice by the county attorney's office on Jan. 22, 2009.

The same day, Donna Dunham with PAKS wrote to Callahan stating, "All the dogs have expired." She stated that instructions were given not to provide "extraordinary care."

Copyright © 2010 - Arizona Range News


by George J. Eigenhauser Jr.
(Mr Eigenhauser is an attorney at law licensed in the State of California
since 1979 and practices in the areas of civil litigation and estate planning.
I have actually spoken with him on the phone.)


What Every Dog Owner Needs to Know:
Dog owners and ethical breeders are increasingly being targeted. Disgruntled neighbors may
retaliate against dog owners, and many other reasons drive complaints and anti-dog enforcement action, which many times may be conducted illegally. The following text outlines methods of inquiry and enforcement that may be used by local officials in an attempt to enforce ordinances in your community and suggested techniques of response. These techniques are entirely legal and based upon the rights of citizens as stated by the US Constitution. No breeder or rescuer wants to have Animal Control come knocking on the door ... but, if they do, it will help if you know what your options are. Remember, Animal Control is law enforcement. They are bound by the same Constitution as any other government agency. To protect yourself, you need to know your rights. These vary slightly one jurisdiction to another, but some general principles apply. One rule applies everywhere: NEVER physically resist an officer.

When Animal Control is At Your Door:
1. Do not let them in, no matter how much they ask. Animal Control generally cannot enter your
home without a warrant, or without your permission. While regular police can enter in emergency situations when human life is at risk (i.e., they hear gunshots or a scream inside), there are few, if any, situations in which Animal Control can enter your home without a warrant. Simply tell them (very politely) they may not come in.

2. If you let them in, anything they find in "plain sight" can be used against you. In some
circumstances, Animal Control officers , unable to find a legitimate reason to make an arrest, have reported building or zoning violations. This may include caging you attached to a wall without a building permit, that extra outlet in the puppy room, having more pets than allowed by zoning, even extension cords in violation of fire codes! No matter how clean your kennel, if they want to find a violation ... they will.

3. Do not talk to them from an open doorway. Step outside and close (lock it, if possible) the
door behind you. This is necessary because:

A) Anything they see through the open door is in "plain sight" and may be the basis for an
arrest or probable cause for a search warrant.

B) If they make an arrest or even feel threatened, they are usually permitted to search for
weapons in your immediate area. Do you keep a baseball bat behind the front door for your
protection? Even if you don't, once they step inside to look, they are in your home and may
continue to search.

C) It is hard not to be intimidated by someone in authority. Some animal control is even done
by local police, who carry guns. It is easy for them to get "in your face", causing you to back up
into your home. Once you go in, it will be interpreted as an invitation to follow.

4. If they claim to have a warrant, demand to see it. In general, a search warrant must be signed
by a judge. A warrant to search your home for dogs does NOT include an inventory of your jewelry box. A warrant to search your kennel in the garage or in the barn does not include a search of your home.

5. In some locations, dog owners may have obtained special "breeder or rescue permits" that
stipulate that Animal Control has your permission to enter your kennel at any time. If you have
signed such a permit, they still cannot enter against your wishes since you can revoke permission
at any time. However, if you refuse permission, it may allow them to cancel your permit, so you
have to weigh the consequences.

6. WARNING -- anyone in lawful possession of the premises may be able to give permission
for a search. Make sure your roommate, babysitter, dog sitter, housekeeper, etc. know they should NEVER let animal control into your home or on your property (i.e., backyard, garage, barn, etc.).

How to Handle Questions:
1. Don't answer any questions beyond identifying yourself for the officer. Anything you say to the
officer in your defense cannot be used in court (hearsay). Anything you say that is harmful to you will be used in court (confessions are not considered hearsay). You cannot win except by remaining silent.

2. Be polite, but firm. Do not argue, bad-mouth, curse, threaten, or try to intimidate the officer.

3 Do not lie to an officer; however, it is NOT a lie to exercise your right to remain silent.

4. Keep your hands in plain sight. People have been shot by police when common objects, such as
a wallet, were mistaken for a gun.

5. Do not touch the officer in any way. Do not physically resist an officer, no matter how unlawful
his or her actions.

6. Don't try to tell your side of the story; it cannot help.

7. Do not threaten the officer that you plan to file a complaint for their actions.

8. If the questioning persists, demand to speak to a lawyer first. Repeat as necessary.

Gathering The Facts:
1. Get the name and badge number of each officer involved. If he/she does not volunteer this
information, ask.

2. Ask the name of the agency they represent. Different agencies have different enforcement

3. Ask why they are there. Request factual basis of the complaint and complainant's identity.

4. If they have other people with them (HSUS, press, etc.), get names and organizations for all

5. Note names & addresses of any witnesses to the encounter.

6. If you are physically injured by an officer, take photographs of injuries immediately, but do not forego proper medical treatment as soon as possible.

7. Write down all information, as well as date and time of incident, immediately while details are
still fresh in your mind.

8. If your rights are violated, file a complaint with the appropriate body.

If You Are Arrested:
1. REMAIN SILENT -- answer no questions until you have consulted with a lawyer.

2. DON'T EXPLAIN ANYTHING -- you will have time for explanations after you talk to your

3. They must allow you a phone call (for calling a lawyer or to arrange bail) within a reasonable
amount of time. They are NOT allowed to listen to your phone call to your attorney, but may
"monitor" the rooms for "your protection". Do not say anything you do not want overheard; save
that until after you are out on bail.

Telephone Inquiries or Threats:
You may receive telephone inquiries concerning the number of dogs you own and whether any dogs or puppies are for sale.

Other questions may also be asked. Your response should be to inquire "Are you interested in a
puppy?". If the answer is "yes", ask for the person's name and phone number. Suggest that you or a responsible breeder will contact that person at a more convenient time for you.

If the answer is friendly and genuinely inquisitive, invite the person to look at your puppies.

If you are asked, "What is the price of your pups?", simply say that puppies of this breed are being sold for between "X" and "Y" dollars. NEVER say that you are selling them.

If you are asked, "Are these your puppies?", you should ask, "Why do you want to know?"
If conversation indicates the person represents County Clerk's Office or other official body, ask for:
--- Full name, title & phone number
--- Agency's full name and address
--- Supervisor's full name and phone number
--- Nature of inquiry (what it is about)
--- Why the inquiry is being made
--- How your name and phone number were obtained
--- Ask that all future questions from that agency be submitted in writing

Preventative Measures:
1. Always keep your kennel clean and take good care of your animals.

2. Consider a PO Box or other address for business cards and advertisements. Keep descriptions
of your location general (i.e., Southern California, rather than the name of the city where you live). The internet can provide anonymity for initial contacts. You can even buy a "remote prefix" to get a number from a nearby community forwarded to your phone or to a voice mail. Avoid local newspaper classifieds, they are often monitored.

3. Screen any potential puppy buyers carefully. Always be alert that they may be Animal Control
or even Animal Rights working under cover.

4. Don't allow strangers into your home until you have screened them.

5. Be fair and honest in all of your dealings, and be on good terms with your neighbors. Most
animal control contacts are complaint-driven. Some complaints may arise as harassment by people with unrelated grievances against you. It may be a disgruntled dog buyer or a cranky neighbor who does not like you parking in front of his house.

6. Anything about you that can be observed in "plain sight" from the street or sidewalk can become probable cause for a warrant. Even areas on your property open to visitors can be dangerous. Be aware of which areas of your home and property are visible from the outside and plan accordingly.

7. If you are confronted by Animal Control and turn them away, assume they will be back. Use the time available to make sure everything is clean and presentable. If you are over the limit on the number of pets, find friends who can provide temporary shelter for your dogs.

Whatever you do, stay calm and keep your wits about you.

Just say "NO", no matter what threats or promises of leniency they make.

When in doubt, SAY NOTHING, and speak to a lawyer ASAP.

Permission to reprint and crosspost is granted.
From ADOA Newsletter, June 2008


Some Owners Accuse Their SPCA Chapter of Taking Their Pets and Selling Them
Commentary By John Stossel

June 3, 2005 —

SPCAs have an image of being animal rescuers. And there's no question that the many Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals around the country do a lot of good work, rushing in to save animals from abusive people.

But some people who've had animals taken away by animal rescuers say some SPCAs have acted like petty tyrants on power trips. They say they use their police powers to take away people's animals, even when the animals don't need rescuing.

I found that hard to believe, but lots of people have been saying that their local SPCA has wrecked their lives.

We spent a year investigating the SPCA, looking at 50 cases from New York to California. Many people think that SPCAs have a national headquarters, but SPCAs are really separate, independent operations located in towns across the country. Some animal owners claimed that when they became overextended in caring for their animals, an SPCA accused them of neglect, confiscated their animals and sold them.

The SPCAs then keep the money.

'Equine Shopping Mall'

One case we followed involved a New Jersey SPCA office accusing horse owner Joe Stuebing of starving his animals.

He said the horses had lost weight simply because they were sick and he was overwhelmed. But a local SPCA filed charge after charge against him for what it said was inhumane treatment. Then they took custody of his horses, some of which were champion bloodlines valued together at almost $1 million.

Stuebing says that the day after the SPCA took custody of his horses at Stuebing's own barn, they invited people to his farm to take his horses out from under him. "This was like an equine shopping mall. Like it was ripe for the pickings," Stuebing told "20/20."

"They are a self-righteous group of people that are in it for money," said Stuebing. "They don't care about the horses. They don't care about anything else, except money."

That's a charge we heard repeatedly from people who lost animals.

Sometimes the owners hire lawyers and file appeals, but they rarely win. Judges usually side with the SPCAs. After all, the animal rescuers are the experts, aren't they?

SPCA Leader Crafts Media Image

Dave Garcia has confiscated thousands of animals in several states. He heads rescue operations for the Dallas SPCA, one of the biggest such organizations in America.

You get a sense of how important he considers his work when you listen to his opinion about the kind of people who abuse animals.

"If they beat a dog to death, then it's just a step up to beat a co-worker, or beat a classmate or and then a step up to & kill someone and then a step up to do a mass murder," Garcia told "20/20."

On local television, Garcia is often portrayed as a savior rescuing animals. And he has saved a lot of animals from abusive people.

"I should not have to warn someone to take care of their animals," said Garcia. "If they're here to make money with them, then take care of them."

Garcia led an effort to get Texas politicians to pass a law saying once a Justice of the Peace approves one of the SPCA's confiscations, an owner can't do anything about it.

Under Garcia's leadership, the Dallas SPCA has seen penalties against animal owners quadruple.

The SPCA invites television crews along on their raids confiscating animals. Such broadcasts spur the public to make big donations -- a total of $6 million in 2003 to the Dallas SPCA -- which helps pay Garcia's $80,000 annual salary.

One of those raids occurred at Renee Moore's dog kennel, with TV reporters stating 120 dogs lived in deplorable conditions.

But Moore's dogs are show dogs. Some of them were thin, she said, because they were nursing large litters of puppies. Vets and breeders told us it can be normal for a dog's ribs to show when a dog is nursing lots of puppies.

But the SPCA took custody of all of Renee's dogs, including award-winners -- worth up to $600 each. After the radio, her vet wrote that while "housing and sanitation needed improvement" and suggested a cutback in the number of animals, he also said "Moore does care about and care for her animals no starvation was evident." A judge upheld the confiscation.

Unable to afford a lawyer, Renee wrote her own lawsuit charging the SPCA with stealing, but the suit was dismissed. Renee's livelihood was destroyed. She and her husband were forced to sell their home and move into a trailer.

"I would like to see them punished for what they've done," said Moore. "And they humiliated me on TV and I'd like them to apologize to me on TV."

'20/20' Follows Garcia on a Raid

All this made us want to see firsthand how Garcia works. So we asked and received permission to go along on an SPCA raid.

Garcia didn't know that our cameraman was a veterinarian, Dr. Gaylon TeSlaa.

Early one morning last September, "20/20" accompanied Garcia as he went with a police officer to a Justice of the Peace to get the warrant needed to raid a dog kennel.

He claimed the owner didn't provide adequate food, water and shelter, and showed photos of what he said were filthy kennels.

After a brief informal hearing, Garcia got permission to raid, which meant he and an armed police officer could go to the kennel without any warning.

Garcia told us to expect to see animals that were urine soaked and fecal stained. "20/20" didn't see that.

TeSlaa said, while there was some neglect because the owner had been away for four days, it was correctable. Since her being away was an unusual event, and she says she'd returned each night to feed her animals he saw no cruelty and certainly no reason to confiscate the dogs. But Garcia saw cruelty and said the dogs needed to be saved.

"Under Texas state law, these animals have been cruelly treated. The definition of cruelly treated is having to live in your own feces, unsanitary conditions, no food or water," said Garcia.

But when people keep animals, there's routinely feces found in the cages. "That's part of having an animal," said TeSlaa.

Moments after the SPCA finished collecting the dogs, the owner arrived. Pam Chennault said she couldn't believe her dogs were being taken, including her favorite, Gidget.

Despite her protests, she was given an immediate court date and was not allowed to go to the van that held Gidget and her other dogs.

"She was my very first dog," Chennault said while crying.

Challenging the Raid

After raiding her kennel, Garcia took the dogs to the SPCA where the workers cited problems like fleas and mange.

Not that the technicians are experts. In fact, our vet was the only veterinarian in sight. "These pets were not abused. They were not in poor health. None of them were in life-threatening conditions," said TeSlaa.

When I mentioned there was no vet there during the raid, Garcia replied: "We had vets there."

But he didn't. The Texas SPCA later e-mailed us admitting that it didn't, but said in this case that vets weren't needed.

Chennault hired a lawyer and tried to get her animals back, but the court gave her only two hours to prepare her case. She was advised to settle and give her dogs to the SPCA. She did. Most of the dogs were adopted, a few were put to sleep. We don't know what happened to Gidget.

When I told Garcia that our vet didn't think the animals should have been taken, he said, "The judge did."

But the judge permitted the raid because of the data Garcia brought to them. I suggested that he "spins" the evidence. "No, I don't spin them," said Garcia. "The judge looks at the facts. Looks at the probable cause, and the judge makes the decision."

I asked him about the claim that he steals people's animals.

"No, I'm not stealing no one's animals," said Garcia.

He said he dismisses most complaints without any confiscation. Garcia said, "It's about the welfare of an animal."

Tell that to the 50 people we talked to who lost animals to Garcia and other SPCAs.

Joe Stuebing is fortunate that he doesn't keep his horses in Texas, where he would be under the thumb of the Texas no-appeal rule Garcia lobbied for. After a court ruled the SPCA could take his animals, he appealed, and won, because his farm was raided without a warrant. The SPCA still says he was abusing his horses, but today he has his horses back.

In Texas, Moore could not appeal, and she said she'll never get over what Garcia and the SPCA did to her.

"I was a dog breeder. I was a dog shower," said Moore. "My dogs were my life."

Remember, when considering donations: each SPCA is separately run. Also, the ASPCA is a different organization.

Copyright © 2010 ABC News Internet Ventures


Although this video is is now set to private...I keep waiting for it to come back so I haven't removed it. It is an excellent example of an illegal confiscation, complete with the typically false accusations of malnourishment by the SPCA in order to justify the seizures. I was made aware of this case after hearing about it from a friend of the victims, Brian and Heidi Travis.

On March 9, 2009 the SPCA raided our farm in Candia, NH. Backed by over a dozen cops from three towns, they blocked off the road for a half mile and took 12 happy, healthy horses. Think about this the next time you send your donation to the SPCA.

This woman was very lucky - she eventually got back all of her horses, but only because she lived in a community where she had a huge amount of support.

Here is a link to more information about this raid. Bear in mind that the media is well known for slanting the issue in favor of the authorities:

Horse Seizure at Inhumane.org

This a link is to a web site that best represents the viewpoint of the Travis', in their own words. There are some very compelling vids here.

Obscured Truth Network Covers Travis Horse Raid