Watch out, Accomack County, VA chained dogs! Rumor has it there’s a merry band of “Vigilante Marauders” (Commonwealth Attorney Gary Agar’s words) headed your way, and if you don’t hide behind that tree you’re chained to, you might get rescued and have the life a dog like you can only dream of.
Gah, wouldn’t that be just awful?
Thank Dog, you have the good folks at Accomack County Sheriff’s office and Commonwealth Attorney Gary Agar looking out for you. They will keep you safely on that chain, where you can get the full enjoyment of watching your miserable existence pass you by for the next ten years before you keel over without ever having experienced a moment of happiness. You’re welcome.
Don’t you worry about a thing; they will cut these amok-running ANIMAL ACTIVISTS (you gotta say this with a sneer, I learned) off at the pass. They’re wise to all our tricks.
And just as well, too, because those vigilante marauders could very well be eating vegan food or something equally as evil, right in front of the Perdue plant. The sneaky bastards.
Yesterday, March 25, 2016, I attended the trial of Bettina Cuce Rodriguez to demonstrate on her behalf, and see for myself what the good folks in Accomack are really up to.
I’ve heard a lot about that county.
Not much of it good.
To read a sanitized version of what went down in the courtroom and understand the background of the case, click here for the Virginian Pilot article. I’m gonna’ give you the good dirt that you won’t read in the newspaper. I apologize that I missed the first day of the trial, and as a result I missed some important testimony, which I will have to leave out since I wasn’t there to take notes. Mea culpa.
Bettina and two companions were charged with felony larceny for taking a chained dog on an 11-degree night, and she cried on the stand as she described seeing the dog wrapped around the tree, immobile, and unable to reach his shelter. She thought he was already dead. When he was found to still be alive, the three folks did what anyone with a heart and mind SHOULD have done. They took the dog, got him to safety, bathed him, cared for him, and paid for his vet care the next day.
For which they all got charged with felonies.
I want to thank those who protested with me, even in the rain and during the lunch break. Bettina has an amazing family, and her father got choked up when he told me that he just doesn’t understand. He raised his daughters to have compassion, and when Bettina used that compassion to care for an animal in distress, she became the criminal and is being punished for her Good Samaritan act.
Bettina’s trial was continued from its initial February date because the ‘victim’ of the crime (the dog owner), left the courtroom before testifying. Instead of dropping the charges as a result of the witness refusing to cooperate, the county put out a warrant for his arrest to force his cooperation.
That action doesn’t sit well with me. If the supposed victim of the crime doesn’t want to testify, then the trial should be set aside. Authorities drop charges against wife abusers every day when the wife refuses to testify against her abusive husband. How is this any different, besides the fact that the dog was actually HELPED instead of HURT by the ‘crime’?
Instead, when this ‘victim’ doesn’t want to testify, he is arrested and dragged into court to make sure these charges stick and this case goes to court. That smacks of a vendetta to me. Accomack County officials wanted to ENSURE that these do-gooding marauders didn’t come back to their county and take note of how their animals are being treated. Of that I am sure.
Here were the players, and my thoughts on their testimony:
The Victim of the Crime – Daniel Melendez, aka Fernando Marin
This man has two completely different names, but would give no reason why. He had absolutely no identification for either name. When he was asked by Bettina’s attorney, Doummar, if he was in the U.S. illegally, the prosecution objected and the judge sustained the objection.
Which leads me to wonder if maybe he isn’t here so legally? And if that is the case, that would explain why he left the courtroom in the first place—he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself. Daniel aka Fernando didn’t even notice his dog was gone, and didn’t call the police. He was forced into the whole thing by the DA and/or the sheriff’s office. Why?
Here’s what he admitted to. It is to be noted that most of his testimony either contradicted his previous testimony, or the testimony of others:
• The dog lived chained most of the time. He claimed he brought the dog in when it was cold, but I don’t buy that for a second. If that were the case, then the dog wouldn’t have been outside when other witnesses and the accused came to the home in 11 degree weather.
Most people who chain their dogs will tell you they bring them in, because they know it’s wrong and evil of them to leave them outside 24/7, but that’s a lie which can often be corroborated by local independent witnesses. Why do they say they bring them in, but I know they really don’t? Because the dogs are covered in fleas and ticks, dirty, smelly, and not housetrained. They often have parasitic worms like hook and whipworms, which cause them to expel copious amounts of bloody diarrhea. Unneutered males such as (I assume) this one was mark their territory. They pee everywhere until trained to hold it until they get outside. The ONLY people who WANT this dog in their homes are the rescuers who understand this is just a temporary situation, and are kind enough to bath the dog, get the dog the vet care he/she deserves, and the worm, flea, and tick medicines needed to kill the parasites. These kind folks take the time to housetrain the dogs and teach them how to live inside. But it’s not easy or fun. People who chain their dogs will not have the patience or tolerance to bring them inside for even a moment of the day.
• He claimed he had the dog for six years. Yet he had NOT ONE SINGLE VET RECORD. NOT ONE SINGLE DOG LICENSE. NOT ONE SINGLE RECORD OF A RABIES SHOT, WHICH IS, COINCIDENTALLY, REQUIRED BY LAW. The Animal Control and the Commonwealth Attorney were nonchalant about HIS breaking of the law. He admitted on the stand that he’d never taken the dog to the vet. How do you have a dog for six years and never take the dog to the vet?
• He stated the dog was in excellent shape. Repeatedly. Every other single witness, with the exception of the animal control officer, stated this wasn’t true. Even the prosecution witnesses.
• He claimed he had a house for the dog. The witness who brought him the doghouse said that wasn’t true, which is why she found one she could donate for the dog’s use.
• When he was asked by a witness if the dog was his, he told him he belonged to his cousin in North Carolina. He then stated in court that he told the witness that lie because “he had no right to ask him about his dog. So he could tell him whatever he wanted.”
• When the animal control officer asked him where his rabies documentation was in November 2014, he said his brother had it in Florida. This documentation is required by LAW, which they are supposedly very fond of in Accomack County. Yet she never came back to see if he ‘found’ the information, or force him to take the dog for a rabies shot. Why not?
• He claimed that his ex-wife may have taken the dog to the vet when she lived there. The dog was her responsibility. But there were no records found at any local vet for the dog.
• He works for Perdue. If he is an illegal alien (which I have no proof of, yet the question does arise given that there are two different names and no ID for either name), is Perdue hiring illegal aliens to torture, maim, kill, and dismember chickens for them?
If so, these seem to me to be much more valid legal questions for the county to be pondering than who took a clearly unwanted and uncared for dog from a chain in 11 degree weather.
The Animal Control Officer – Fairy McPhereson
This woman was all about the law. The law, law, law, law.
Except, of course, as it pertained to the dog owner in question, and probably every other dog chainer in the county. Then her implementation of the law was inarguably lax. She testified that she was called to the residence on November 19, 2014 for a cruelty complaint. At this time, she asked Daniel aka Fernando where his rabies paperwork was. He told her it was in Florida with his brother, but of course could produce no evidence of this. (Because, duh, it doesn’t exist.)
Now, wouldn’t you think—if you’re a decent animal control officer so you don’t want to fine this guy BUT YOU WANT TO UPHOLD THE LAW—that you would give him a written warning, and one week to produce rabies paperwork and a county dog license? At which time, of course, you’d come back to check that he’d done so? After all, it takes five minutes. And you want to be upstanding in your job.
THAT IS THE LAW, RIGHT? That he must have a county license and rabies shot for his dog. But, inexplicably, she was just too busy to ever get back there again. She did drive by numerous times and reported the dog looked fine and dandy to her…but she was just too busy to stop and ask for that pesky paperwork.
He claims she told him to take the dog inside because it was too cold out. But she says she never told him that, because THERE IS NO LAW SAYING THE DOG NEEDS TO GO INSIDE. And God Forbid she make an enlightened recommendation based on the cruelty of keeping a dog outside in sub-freezing temperatures in order to prevent the death of the animal.
A Local Animal Advocate and Retired Attorney—Jim Mason
Jim was called as a witness by both the prosecution and the defense. His testimony was as follows:
The day he stopped it was cold, he estimated the wind chill would be near zero degrees that night. He asked Daniel aka Fernando to take the dog inside due to the cold. He refused. He had a ten minute discussion with D/F about it. Jim then offered to buy the dog for $100-$200, but D/F refused that too. That’s when D/F told Jim that the dog’s true owner was in North Carolina.
Jim sat in his car, trying to figure out what to do next, and so called animal control. Animal control said they wouldn’t come out as it wasn’t an emergency. He could see the dog was shivering, and he could see his ribs. The dog had the plastic shelter, no bedding, and his tether was wrapped around the tree.
The Commonwealth Attorney, Gary Agar, kept going after Jim Mason on the stand, saying he was an animal activist and that he was TELLING D/F what to do with his dog. He had no right to TELL D/F what to do with HIS PROPERTY. (Even though it was zero degrees outside…advocating for the dog is NOT ACCEPTABLE.)
He also acted like Jim was in the wrong for calling animal control about the dog. However, this is exactly what they kept saying the caring citizens should have been doing all along.
There is no doubt in my mind that the animal advocates in Accomack County can’t win for losing. They have targets on their backs, while the animal abusers are getting off scot free.
A Local Animal Advocate—Vivian Phillips
Vivian helped the dog numerous times in the past year before his rescue. She had knocked on the door months prior to January 2015. She said the dog didn’t have a house, and D/F showed her a piece of plywood he was planning to use to build a house. The dog had no collar, just a chain with a padlock wrapped around his neck. She bought him a collar, a tether, and a swivel anchor that goes into the ground for the tether. She found someone to donate a doghouse, and took it to him with straw filling it.
She noticed when she went by that the doghouse was apart and in two pieces. So she went back, picked it up, and screwed it back together so it wouldn’t come apart again. She filled the house with straw numerous times during the course of her help. Most of the time she went by the dog was tangled around the tree.
One time he was tangled so badly that she tried to get help to untangle him from someone inside the trailer, but they wouldn’t answer the door. She noticed the dog was becoming more and more emaciated, so she provided him with food and water on numerous occasions.
Gary Agar—Commonwealth Attorney, Accomack County
• Said the words Animal Activist like he was saying Baby Rapist…always with a sneer.
• Called Bettina and everyone trying to help dogs in Accomack County “Vigilante Marauders.” Some of his exact statements were: “We can’t have these marauding vigilantes taking creatures from their yards. They must stop going around trying to correct dog abuse at the Eastern Shore. We can’t have people going over the limits of the law. Ignoring commonwealth laws cannot be permitted. Let law enforcement do their job. Animal Activists (sneer) must stay within appropriate boundaries. They deprive law enforcement of the ability to do their jobs properly.”
• He also kept saying “This is a larceny trial, not a forum on dog care.”
• He shamed Bettina for writing a letter to the sheriff where she outlined the animal cruelty going on in Accomack County, and claimed that it was instead SHE who had a vendetta against the county, and that she stole the dog because of her anger. I think it was very clear where the vendetta lies, and it’s not with Bettina Rodriguez.
The End Result – A Deferred Judgment
In the end, the judge stated that motive doesn’t factor into the crime; meaning that the fact that Bettina took the dog to save his life doesn’t matter according to the law. There is also no requirement that there be an intent to profit from the stolen goods, meaning that the fact that the dog actually COST Bettina money to provide much-needed veterinary care doesn’t matter either.
Because Bettina has a squeaky clean record, the judge was reluctant to find her guilty of a felony. He postponed any judgment until August, during which time a background check will be done, and the hope is that he will give her a reduced sentence or some kind of adjustment for first-time offenders.
My Opinion of Accomack County’s Treatment of Abusers and Advocates
It is my personal opinion that the county of Accomack has some serious dog chaining and other animal cruelty issues. I took a look around before heading back out of town, and I was pretty appalled with the conditions I saw. There appears to be a high poverty level, and these are the dog owners who claim they can’t afford a fence, using this as an excuse for why they chain their dog.
EXCEPT for the fact that…IT COSTS NOTHING TO BRING YOUR DOG INTO THE HOME TO LIVE.
THE COST IS ONLY A COLLAR AND A LEASH to walk your dog outside for potty breaks and exercise for the two of you. Together.
So that argument just doesn’t hold water with me.
If you don’t want to bring your dog into the home, then find someone who does. You have no business owning a dog if you can’t make him/her happy by making him/her part of your family.
That’s what the dog wants and deserves.
This is 2016, not 1850, people. Get a grip, please.
Law enforcement of Accomack County, VA doesn’t want outsiders coming in and pointing out their deficiencies. They are right fine and dandy with dog chaining, and see nothing wrong with it. Even in sub-freezing temperatures, as the officer proudly stated on the stand.
The county is big on laws as they apply to animal advocates, but not as they apply to hypothetically illegal immigrants, dog abusers, or companies who could possibly be employing said hypothetically illegal immigrants. They also have no concern for citizens following the laws of required shelter, rabies vaccinations, or dog licenses, unless those people are animal advocates—then they are checked and rechecked for these items, in a form of harassment to get them to shut up and leave the county.
As you can see in this letter, below, the Accomack County pound, under the control of animal control officer Fairy McPhereson and one other officer, failed their last Virginia inspection in June 2015. It seems to me they are more focused on maintaining the status quo around animals than moving forward into the 21st century.
Animals are living beings, and they have right and needs that are not being addressed in this county.
I personally could give a rat’s ass whether someone is in the U.S. illegally, as long as they take care of their animals and treat people with respect. What I dislike is the absolute hypocrisy that is going on there. The fact that D/F was clearly violating all kind of animal laws in failing to have license and rabies vaccinations, no shelter, and an underweight dog left outside in sub-freezing temperatures was glossed over and dismissed as nothing to concern ourselves with.
While those who put their safety on the line to save the dog were and are being criminalized and destroyed. This is unacceptable to me.
If you’re a tourist to the Eastern Shores of Virginia, I suggest you read this article and spend your tourist dollars somewhere else…somewhere that treats its companion animals with the respect and caring they deserve.
Accomack County, Virginia is not that place.
P.S. A big thanks again to Lisa Terry for providing the wonderful signage for the protest. It is so much appreciated.
P.S.S. We are told the dog is happy and well. For that we can all be grateful, and Bettina’s sacrifice will not be for naught.
P.S.S.S. Are you a dog chainer and worried that someone will steal your dog, too? I have an idea. Bring him/her inside. It would be much harder for someone to steal your dog, AND the dog could actually protect you if someone broke in.