Virginia – August 18, 2015 – Tamira Thayne, dog activist and founder of the anti-chaining organization Dogs Deserve Better, is glad to finally put her Surry County nightmare behind her.
It’ll be FUN!” they said.”We should TOTALLY do that!” they said.
“Let’s buy Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels and make it into a HAPPY PLACE for dogs!”
But for Thayne, happy was far from what happened when she bought the Surry County, Virginia 15-acre property and moved Dogs Deserve Better there in 2011.
The move put her in the crosshairs of those who were angry about Vick’s fall from grace, and looking for a little dog-activist revenge.
“When we moved in, there was a bullet hole in the window above the front door. I remember being surprised that someone had actually shot into the house, and I wondered if that was meant for Vick or for us,” Tamira remembers.
It only went downhill from there. A local petition sought to remove them from the county, and No Trespassing signs lined the property between their home and the guy with a bunch of caged beagles next door.
Thayne began to see why Vick chose Surry County in the first place.
With no money, no fencing, and few supplies, staff, or volunteers, Thayne nevertheless went about the business of creating a loving rehab center for previously-chained dogs—dogs who came from nothing and had no idea how to live inside the home—while living in the eye of a shitstorm and fearing for her very emotional and physical survival.
Some of what little money they had was embezzled away into a staff member’s paycheck; this staff member—to free herself from prosecution after Thayne went legal—struck a deal with the powers-that-be to frame Thayne instead for animal cruelty.
Thayne, unaware of the collusion, had just returned from a ten day honeymoon in St. Lucia on August 27, 2012. She was confused and terrified when animal control officer Tracy Terry and four deputies descended on the property to place her under arrest that same afternoon. For what?
News helicopters buzzed overhead and vans waited in the lot, hoping for shots of the horrendous cruelty Thayne had somehow inflicted on the dogs from 3000 miles away. (Yes, the dogs had staff caring for them in her absence. No, they were never alone, never unfed, never unwatered.)
Luckily for Thayne, the conspirators hadn’t schemed so well. They bore no actual EVIDENCE (necessary in a criminal trial), and illegally seized a black and white—AND perfectly healthy—pitbull named Jada (failing to remember they needed a judge’s permission to do so).
Jada played in the lobby with Tamira and her toys while waiting for her stint in the joint. She was taken by animal control from the only place she knew as home, forced in distress into the animal control vehicle, and shipped off to the local facility—the very same county shelter where two of Vick’s pits ‘mysteriously disappeared.’
Tamira and staff were afraid they’d never see her again.
A judge, upon viewing before and after photos of Jada from the day she was rescued as well as the day she was seized, and hearing vet testimony on Tamira’s behalf, agreed there was a “very clear LACK of evidence of cruel treatment.” He ordered Jada returned to Thayne and Dogs Deserve Better.
Still, Surry County pressed on with the criminal charges against Thayne. They could not allow this innocence to stand.
The very same Commonwealth Attorney, Gerald Poindexter, who dropped all animal cruelty charges against Vick despite a signed confession and nine dead bodies, was not willing to drop charges against Thayne when there was NO evidence and all of the dogs were healthy, loved, and cared for.
In the end Surry County couldn’t find a witness who would actually show up for court; the charges were finally dropped.
Tamira was ‘free’ at last—but what of her reputation, her career, her life? What of the nonprofit’s?
Seeking justice, Thayne and Dogs Deserve Better filed a lawsuit in federal court against Surry County Animal Control officer Tracy Terry in August 2014. The suit stated “Despite the charges having been dismissed and Jada returned, tremendous damage was done to DDB and Thayne by the misrepresentations and unsupported statements made by Defendants, including the publicity garnered by Defendants by, on information and belief, notifying various media outlets of the anticipated arrest and search so that television, radio, and print reporters would appear on the ground and in the air.”
Months of back and forth negotiation followed, with the lawsuit finally settling in August 2015 for an undisclosed amount, paid to Thayne and Dogs Deserve Better through their attorneys. The settlement came with no acknowledgement of misdeed on the part of Surry County’s animal control.
Tamira Thayne’s first purchase made with her share of the lawsuit money was a 4-month supply of toilet paper. “I want to remember these kind folks in a fitting manner,” she said. “Now I can do that with every flush. I appreciate that they gave me enough for the Charmin—my tushey deserves the very best.”
Then she took daughter Brynnan to Ocean City, Maryland, and husband Joe to Virginia Beach, Virginia. She bought new clothes, a shiny new refrigerator, and various gifts for her family.
“I suffered years of PTSD as a result of Surry County’s actions, and still today have flashbacks of the arrest and my abject terror and confusion that horrible August afternoon. I cried for two days, and could barely hold my head up due to the shame inflicted on me by Tracy Terry and her allies.
“I lost my reputation, my enjoyment in life, and my career. I’ve been in therapy, and I’m healthier and making jokes about what they put me through now—but the truth is, a lot of pleasure in life was taken from me and my family. I can’t make that painful time go away, but I CAN spend every single dime of this settlement on something that brings me or my family a moment of joy.
“Neither DDB nor myself got the settlement we deserved—but we did win a nod toward justice.
“Those who commit evil generally don’t apologize for it.”
Thayne is currently at work on a book about her Surry County drama, and hopes to find the funny in what happened; she doesn’t want it to hurt as much to read as it did to experience. She left the organization she founded in March 2015, and lives in Culpeper County, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and their fur-covered family.
Thayne is widely credited with launching the nationwide movement to free dogs from chains, and was termed the “godmother of anti-tethering” in a 2010 USA Today article. She spent 877 hours chained to doghouses, and traveled the country speaking out on behalf of chained dogs, freeing them from this unnecessary abuse. Her organization has freed and/or provided veterinary care funding for thousands of chained dogs since its 2002 formation.
Media Contact: http://www.tamiracithayne.com
P.S. There are so many folks who stood by Thayne and helped her through the trials. Vet Dr. Leslie Dragon, a mobile vet who has spent a lot of time treating the DDB center dogs, testified at the first hearing and was willing to testify at each and every hearing. Mark Kumpf, ACO officer extraordinaire, also was willing to testify, and provided expert analysis of the case. Samantha Laine propped Tamira up in the early days and helped her find attorneys and do the things that needed to be done. DDB staff—those who weren’t conspiring—all came to testify, as well as many volunteers. Thank you! You have no idea how much that meant to Tamira.