Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gloucester, VA Animal Control Section 3-15 A Holiday Story - Compliments of Carl (Chuck) Shipley and Jeff Stillman

The following is a story that is presently going on in Gloucester County, Virginia and is written by people we believe are being victimized by Gloucester Animal Control.  The story is in their own words.  We have copies of the files to back up their story and we have already used one of them on this site.

Attacked By Animal Control?

The following is a story written by two people presently being victimized, in our opinion, by Gloucester Animal Control.

The names of the victims are being withheld for their own protection. Those names listed here with Animal Control do know who these victims are. We have full documentation to the accuracy of this story.  The following story is written in their own words.

At this time my daughter and myself are living in a motel room. We have lost our home and our business and my job. We also have charges pending against us from Animal Control of Gloucester that if they are not dismissed may affect my long time career as a Licensed Veterinary Technician. We feel that we are being targeted and we feel that these charges are unjustified. I am sorry this is so long but there are lots of details and I felt that some of even the small details are important.

About seven months ago we lost our house of 10 years. Although we were in workout with the bank, they told us they did not like dealing with small home businesses and our house was sold to Fannie Mae They gave us less then a month to vacate. Our home business is a educational program using small exotic animals. We have birds that talk and sing, a tortoise big enough to stand on, a groundhog that sits up and lets you pet him, reptiles that do feeding demonstrations. We have about 25 small animals, none are poisonous or dangerous. Just this year we did 45 schools, 30 churches, 8 nursing homes, 60 private programs and several fund raisers, we did more than a few of these free or at a reduced rate as a community service. We have been operating for about 6 years and we have hundreds of positive comments. We were USDA and Fish & Game licensed. I have been a licensed Veterinary Technician for over 30 years. I have worked in zoos and with veterinary clinics, I have also been a wildlife rehabber both federal and state for all that time. My daughter has been working with animals her whole life including being a veterinary assistant at several veterinary clinics. Our animals are more than just our business. They are like family and their welfare has always come before our own.

Due to the stress of the move and all that was going on I had a physical collapse and spent a week in the hospital. Even though I had no insurance the situation was so serious they would not let me go home. My daughter was left to move alone with 3 friends from our church. We ended up moving to a farm in Gloucester, we paid rent and utilities and helped around the farm.

While we were in the process of moving a young man that had a grudge toward my daughter started a slander campaign against my daughter and our business. He said we were running from the law and that we had warrants against us, all the accusations were false. The day we moved to the farm we got a call from the caretaker of the woman we were living with brothers home. He said Gloucester Animal Control was over there asking where we were, they also said there were warrants out for our arrest. He was very upset. Shortly thereafter Animal Control showed up where we were. Officer Jeff Stillman and a woman deputy got out of their truck and the first thing Jeff said to me was that we had warrants for our arrest from the county we had moved from. My daughter was on the phone with the sheriffs department and they said that that was false. After we told Jeff this he continued to berate us. He was rude and belligerent toward us and our new landlord. He accused us of lying about when we had moved the animals into the county and of trying to avoid the permit process in Gloucester. We tried to explain about how we had moved quickly and that we were ready to do whatever we needed to be fully compliant. He continued to yell and threaten us and he asked to see the animals. When we took him in to see the animals he was visibly afraid of the reptiles. He stated loudly several times don't open the cages. He took pictures of the animals through the cages. He said that he was afraid our snakes would escape and cause a problem like Florida had. We explained that all our snakes were females and that we had safe enclosures and had never had an escape. After he left I was shaking with exhaustion and stress, he towered over us and yelled right in our faces. I had never met an officer so unprofessional rude and just plain threatening before.

The only animals that a permit were needed for were the four snakes and the groundhog so we started the permitting process. We acquired the insurance $50,000 liability and had everything in order but the vet visit. We made several appointments but had trouble getting vets that would see reptiles. We kept animal control updated to our progress because the vet visit was finally scheduled one day before the paperwork was due. At the last moment the vet changed the appointment to one day later. We called animal control and asked if they wanted us to turn in everything but the vet papers and we would have them the next day. They told us to turn in everything together. The vet visit went well and we turned in the paperwork on the date it was due. We then got a call from Jeff, he said the paperwork was one day late and he had issued a summons for late paperwork. Again he was quite rude. We had spent considerable money with the insurance and vet visits to comply and I felt this was a bit much especially since we had kept them updated to the status. I complained to Carl Shipley the head of Animal Control who I know personally through church about Jeff's unprofessional behavior. Steve Barneck and Jeff Stillman showed up to do the inspection. They were both polite. They issued the permit the next day. When I went to court the judge asked why the paperwork had been late and I explained the veterinary issues. All the while I was talking Jeff kept interrupting and making comments about myself and the animals. The judge dismissed and I had to pay $100.00 court costs.

After 3-4 semi-peaceful months the woman we were staying issued us an eviction notice. We looked desperately for a place for us and the animals. We were able to get a storage unit to store our personal belongings and a friend offered her spacious building to house the animals. We were ready to move.

In compliance with our permit I caught Carl Shipley at church the day before and let him know we were moving the animals. I told him we would let them know the exact address as soon as we got them moved. The day we were moving I had to work, I had gotten a job at a new veterinary clinic. My daughter and a friend rented a u-haul and were packing up when animal control showed up. Once again it was Jeff Stillman and the woman deputy. He went up and talked to our landlord who was very upset. Things went from bad to worse once again Jeff was angry and belligerent. he berated my daughter about her dog, a husky mix, saying that he knew the dog was a wolf hybrid. He said that she had no rabies proof even though she said she had all the papers and that she had just gotten the dog as a gift for her birthday. The first thing Jeff saw when he entered the animal room was a dead kitten by the food bowl. My daughter had no idea that it was sick much less dying and was quite upset to see It even though it was not ours and belonged to the person who owned the farm. Jeff demanded to know what had happened to it and that she was responsible for it's death. He yelled at her and told her the room smelled terrible and that the cages were beyond filthy. The cages had been cleaned the morning before and several of the animals were in temporary traveling cages because we were moving them. We planned on cleaning and re bedding everyone as we moved them. She called me crying in hysterics that Jeff had screamed at her telling her she was in serious trouble and that he was going to issue a bunch of charges against her. He frightened her badly because he wouldn't talk to her he just kept screaming right in her face. He then photographed the cages. The female deputy examined the animals because Jeff was afraid to touch them and she stated that even though the cages could use cleaning the animals looked healthy and bright eyed. This whole exchange was witnessed by the man that was helping my daughter move, he was appalled at the unprofessional conduct he saw. Jeff stated that he would be back the next day to make sure we had vacated. We spent the early evening and late into the night getting everyone crated and getting all our belongings packed up.

That night it got very cold, we loaded up the animals last so that they would stay warm and headed to the building where they were supposed to stay. When we arrived the building turned out to be too large to heat properly, it was 30 degrees and we didn't know what to do. We combined all of the animals in the back of the van, and spent the remainder of the night running the heater in the van to keep the animals alive and warm. It had to be the worst night of my life. I was afraid that we would lose all our animals, I went from immense fear to complete despair. We had no where to go and no one to turn to. We were completely alone and afraid. We were sure that we were going to have to turn the animals over, and lose them all forever just so that they wouldn't freeze. On the off chance we contacted an acquaintance that we knew in Northumberland County, he managed to connect us with a woman who knew someone who had a room where we could stay for a couple of weeks while we adjusted some things.

When we arrived there was a 15'x15' tack shed with a bed, microwave, and small fridge with no running water, we had to go into the house to use the bathroom and to clean up. The room was small, but we made the best of it we set the animals up and at least we were warm and safe. The woman who gave us a temporary place called animal control just to let them know where we were, because they said that they needed to know where the animals went. Jeff told her that the animals were horribly malnourished and badly cared for, the woman informed him that she had seen the animals and that they were healthy, well socialized and sweet. Jeff then proceeded to call the man who had helped us find this place and told him what horrible animal caretakers we were. The man then called the place where we were staying hysterical because he was worried about the animals, because of what Jeff had told him. The woman cleared things up quickly, and informed him that Jeff had lied to him about the condition of the animals. About a week after we arrived, two Gloucester County Troopers showed up late in the evening on a Saturday served my daughter 12 summons. 1 for each animal cage, and one for her dogs rabies, which she had proof of. There happened to be a lawyer from Gloucester there watching his daughter, and he asked what the summons were about. He told us that animal control justified their jobs, by giving out multiple summons instead of just 1, and even if the charges were dropped we would still end up paying thousands in court fees. It was a very discouraging and worrisome conversation.

Because we were still having trouble finding a place, we started re homing our animals, so that they would be safe until we found a place to live and got back on our feet. It took almost a week and hundreds of resources to get the animals placed in the best places that they could go. Near the end of week two, I went to the library and saw Jeff at a store on my way there. About 15 minutes after Jeff saw me, I received a call from my employer and he let me go. It just so happens that Jeff runs the crematorium business that my employer used, so he knew my employer well and knew that I worked there. I talked with Carl Shipley at church that Sunday, and he got very rude with me and told me that he had seen the pictures, and that the cages were just filthy and that I had a bunch of summons as well, but that they hadn't served them because they couldn't find me. I was at the same place where my daughter received hers, and they knew that. The woman at the house where we were staying had already rented the room we were living in, before she had let us come and stay there so we had to find another place to go. Our church got us a temporary place at an inn in West Point, a couple days after we got settled a New Kent county officer showed up and served me 14 summons. 1 for each animal cage and for the rabies and tags on my two dogs, even though I have rabies certificates on them that we could show him. The summons were dated weeks after my daughters were. Talk about kicking us while we are down. We are currently looking for any kind of jobs and trying to find a safe place to live in the meantime.

The name of the church is not mentioned in this story and we see no reason to bring them into the story other than to applaud the majority of folks at this church as they have stepped up and have been helping these two ladies.  Now here is the rest of the story with Carl, (Chuck), Shipley and the additional 14 summons or warrants.  The mother is the one who owns the business which owns the animals.  The daughter does not.  Our opinion based on experience with Gloucester County's legal system is that these 14 warrants did not exist prior to the mother meeting with Carl Shipley.  It was during this church meeting that the mother explained to Carl that the animals did not belong to the daughter.  What that means.  Had Carl not known about this, when the court date came up, the entire case would have been thrown out.  You can not charge someone with an offense against animal care when they do not own the animals and hence are not responsible for the care of the animals.  

  That would have put a very bad light on Animal Control for wasting the court's time.  So once Carl learned that the animals were not the daughters, he told the mother that she had papers waiting for her.  Two days later she received 14 papers compared to the daughters 12.  When we looked at the papers for the mother, we noticed some nice little tricks being played.  Items added to the 14 papers that were not on the first 12.  In our opinion, the warrants for the mother have all been back dated.  Slippery in our view.  We are not saying that this is an illegal act in this case.  That we just do not know.  We just think it's more shady work on the part of Gloucester County officials.  If you go a few posts back, you will see a copy of one of the warrants issued to the mother.  Highlighted on that warrant is a date received and initials.  These were not on the daughter's copies.

  Here it is again.  This is one of the warrants given to the mother.

This second copy here is one that has been issued to the daughter.  No time and or date stamp.  That does not make them any more or any less legal.  We bet though that if one could view the meta data on the creation of these files, that one would see that the warrants for the mother were done on or about November 26th, 2012.  Much later than that of the daughter.  Again, we can not say that it's not legal, just shady in our own view.

  These two ladies are in need of assistance.  If you can help, please send us an email through this site and we will pass it on to them.  They will contact you and you will be dealing with them and not us.

  They are in need of shelter, food, support and they also feel they need legal representation when they have to appear in court.  We are helping them as much as we can but our own resources can only stretch so far.  They are still in a motel room until the end of the week.  Money is extremely tight.

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