Monday, February 1, 2010

Arizona: Confiscation of dogs returns to bite county

As you can see from the news article below, animal rights wackos are alive & well in parts of Arizona. We sincerely hope that Barbara & Bob Ratliff win their lawsuit and there is enough financial pain generated to stop vendetta's such as these.


By Shar Porier/wick communications in the

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 persons for 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 Morales's decision, but Superior Court Judge Wallace Hoggatt upheld the decision on December 16, 2008.

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

The Ratliffs' attorney Perry Hicks states in the tort suit, "... 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 for unlawful search and seizure, wrongful taking of property, violation of the right to privacy, negligent entrustment and negligence as stated in the complaint filed December 31, 2009, 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 persons involved for 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 four-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, 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 seventeen additional dogs from the Ratliffs on the grounds that their medical health could not be determined without a "complete medical examination," documents show.

The Ratliffs requested the dogs be taken to their vet in Bisbee, Dr. Charles Behney until the matter could be resolved. Deputies told them the dogs would go to Pencin and then transport 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 ..." It also acknowledges that the owner of the animal has the "right to access the animal."

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

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

But, later 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 ACO to act on the complaint.

Justice David Morales tossed the evidence found under the "stale" search warrant. He then dismissed the charges against Ratliff. 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 the dogs couldn't be transported since she didn't know where the dogs were.

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

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

On the same day, Donna Dunham, with PAKS, sent a letter to Callahan stating "It has been nine months since these dogs were turned over to Tipling and during that period all the dogs have expired." She also stated in that letter that instructions were given not to provide "extraordinary care, not to vaccinate, spay/neuter, or treat any of the conditions the dogs were experiencing." Dunham did not say who told her the dogs were not to be treated. She goes on to say that all of the dogs suffered from "some sort of malady" and that "many of them expired as a result of parvo or distemper."

It was a curious response in that the county stated in a letter on July 1, 2008, to Hicks that the people who adopted the dogs had become attached to them and wanted to keep them.

Deputy County Attorney Gregory Harding wrote in that letter, " .. Many if not all of the foster caregivers wish to continue providing for the care of the dogs ... Many of these individuals have provided medical care and attention to these dogs at their own expense and have become attached to them."

One thing that has proven puzzling to Hicks is a statement Tipling makes in her complaint to Callahan: "She (Ratliff) had no idea I had purchased two dogs one year before." And in an email sent from Tipling describing the encounter to Karen Heider on Sunday, March 27, 2007, some details are very similar to the March 2008 complaint. That means Tipling knew of the problem for a year before coming forward, said Hicks in an interview.

"If things were so bad, why did she wait that long," pondered Hicks.

Deputy Civil County Attorney Britt Hanson said the suit had been passed on to the Arizona Counties Insurance Pool (ACIP) for review.

ACIP's Cindy Byrne is handling the case for the county and said the organization provides coverage for the county on many matters. She will act as the county's attorney if or when the case reaches the courts.

Right now there is no dollar figure the Ratliffs seek, added Hicks. That will be determined by the court if it comes to that.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing absolutely amazing!!!!!! Talk about getting it wrong I know for a fact "she" purchased 2 dogs from good ole Barb from a pen she had in the yard at 100 degrees. It was wrapped in 2 plastic table cloths. Think how hot a plastic coverd pen gets? Covered with small seed ticks that were crawling off the dogs in the vehicle on the way home. They were so covered in urine and poop. Now why do you figure those 2 were housed in this manor? I don't see where the people that purchased dogs from good ole Barb spoke of there horror stories. Shame on you people!! Where is the veterinarian report from the 4th doctor from Tucson funny how that is missing.