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Good deed or felony offense? Headaches follow after dog found

South Boston News
SoVaNow.com / January 01, 2018
A Vernon Hill woman who picked up a stray dog by the side of the road thinking she was doing a kindly deed is now seeking help of her own: to beat criminal charges lodged against her after she reported the incident to county animal control.

On Dec. 20, Christen Waddle was driving on Route 360 when she spotted a dog running loose in the middle of the road near Union Church Road, causing her to swerve her vehicle to avoid striking the animal.

Stopping her car, Waddle got a better look: she said the dog was lethargic and shaking, its ribs visible, with marks on its face. She picked up the lost dog and called the non-emergency sheriff’s office number to report it to county Animal Control.

The dog had two collars: one displaying the name and phone number of the owner, the other a GPS tracking collar used by hunters. Along with notifying animal control, Waddle said she tried to call the animal’s owner, and failing to make contact, sent him a message via Facebook.

Six days later, Waddle was charged by Halifax County Animal Control with misdemeanor theft of the dog, and a separate felony charge of stealing the GPS tracking collar — owing to Virginia’s statutory threshold for felony grand larceny, applying to items valued at $200 or more.

The charges also came five days after the dog was put down with a diagnosed case of distemper — an outcome Waddle said she only learned about after speaking to a reporter.

Waddle, who has set up a GoFundMe page to raise $5,000 for her legal defense, is shaken and dumbfounded by the turn of events that has left her facing the possibility of jail time.

“It has been a humiliating experience for me, and now I am terrified of meeting any of the men who surrounded my car and threatened me” says Waddle. She added, “I did the responsible thing by preventing a serious accident which could have injured or killed someone.”

For his part, the dog’s owner, Nick Jones of Halifax, said he had nothing to do with bringing the charges against Waddle, and he further denies that the dog was undernourished or abused. Named “Slick,” the hunting dog had been in his possession for only a few months, Jones said; he obtained the animal from a fellow hunter in Brookneal.

“He was eating fine and everything — he just wouldn’t gain weight,” said Jones, who added that Slick was ordinarily “the first one to jump up and get in the truck and everything. He never acted like he had a thing wrong with him.” A friend and fellow hunter, Dre Tucker — the owner of the Garmin TT16 tracking collar in question — added that Slick was “Nick Jones’ jump dog,” with the best nose among the four dogs that the men used for hunting. Tucker said Slick was also highly responsive to the tracking collar, which emits a beeping sound to signal when the animal should stop and return to its master.

When the dog ran off towards Route 360 on the morning that the men were hunting, they were still able to track its whereabouts, said Tucker. Slick was only about 100 yards away when the hunters first noticed the animal had been picked up by a motorist.

“That was his [Jones’] main dog, his bread and butter,” said Tucker.

Slick was put down by local veterinarian Bill Will one day after Waddle and the hunters had a brief encounter at a Centerville gas station. It was there the hunters found the dog by tracking the signal from the GPS collar as Waddle drove from Route 360, where she picked up Slick, to Centerville.

Waddle said she went to the gas station to refuel her nearly-empty car before heading out to the county animal shelter, where she had indicated to Jones via social media messaging that she would be handing over the dog to county animal control.

At the gas station, Waddle and the hunting party — five men in all — had a confrontation and exchange of words. Waddle said the men cursed her and she feared for her safety. Calling 911, she said she was advised to get inside her car and lock the doors until police arrived, but she hesitated to unlock her car with the men nearby. Inside the vehicle was Slick, still wearing the two dog collars.

“[Five] men then surrounded my car, started threatening to bust my windows out and calling my vulgar names,” Waddle wrote on her GoFundMe page giving her version of events. “Dispatch asked me if I could get in my vehicle and lock the doors. I told them that I didn’t want to unlock my vehicle while surrounded by [the men.] One man turned away and I unlocked my driver door, got in and waited for an officer to arrive.”

Tucker offered a different account, saying that Waddle was the first to use expletives when the men pulled up at the gas station. “She said ‘I got your f--- poor a— dogs,’” said Tucker. “She came off wrong at first, that’s when I told her there was going to be a problem.”

The men demanded the return of the dog and the $300 GPS collar, but Waddle refused to unlock her car and give the dog back, said Tucker.

“I told the lady if she had the dog and my collar locked in the car, that’s a felony right there,” said Tucker. After the dispute was quieted by local officers, Tucker said he was ready to let the matter drop. “It was words exchanged on both sides. It was an argument. I didn’t say anything. I just wanted my collar.”

Jones backed up Tucker: “She said ‘I have this poor a—dog and you’re not getting him back’,” he recalled. Like Tucker, Jones said he did not ask animal control to press charges against Waddle: “I didn’t charge her and I doesn’t matter to me. Once I got my dog and collar back we were done. We had nothing to talk about after that.”

Responding to the scene were Deputy C. Yates and animal control officer A. Claughton. While neither officer has offered an account of what happened, all parties agree that animal control took possession of the dog. Later in the day, Slick was given back to its owner, Jones, with orders from Claughton to take the dog into a veterinarian the next day. On Dec. 21, Will examined Slick and said the dog showed all the signs of distemper and there was nothing he could do. Jones asked Will to euthanize Slick, which he did.

In an itemized explanation of the bill’s charges, Will wrote that Slick was “very sick, unable to stand” and “may have been seizuring.” Will also noted the dog’s emaciated state and the fact it had no vaccination history.

Jones said he was unaware that Slick was suffering from distemper before the veterinarian’s visit. “He was acting fine like a regular dog would. He never acted like he had a thing wrong.”

Asked about vaccinations and other medical records, Jones told Will he had gotten the dog from someone else and did not have paperwork. The dog did not display a license or a rabies tag, according to the longtime local veterinarian.

Tucker, his hunting partner, said he and Jones go hunting nearly every day during deer season. Asked about the animal’s emaciated state, Tucker said Slick “was a typical hunting dog. That’s what people don’t understand. If you ran six or seven hours a day and went out and did it again, how do you think you would look?”

Back at the gas station on Dec. 20, Waddle made another request of Deputy Yates — asking her to arrest the hunters. She declined to do so, telling Waddle that if she wanted to press charges, she could go to the Magistrate’s office in Halifax. When Waddle said she needed the names, Yates told her she could get them at the Magistrate’s office, according to Waddle.

On Dec. 26, Waddle received a call from Deputy J. Franco notifying her that she had been charged by Halifax County Animal Control with the misdemeanor and felony theft charges.

According to available documents, Magistrate Katie Smith found probable cause to sign two warrants based on Claughton’s sworn testimony on Dec. 20. Franco asked Waddle to meet him at the Magistrate’s office to avoid the embarrassment of arrest.

Waddle met Deputy Franco as requested and appeared before Smith, the magistrate, who released Waddle on a $1500 unsecured bond. No one from animal control appeared. After being booked and processed at the jail, she was released.

On Dec. 28, Waddle continued, she attempted to obtain a copy of the incident report from the sheriff’s office. They sent her to the 911 dispatch office where she was told that any documents or recordings must be subpoenaed by an attorney, Waddle said.

Contacted about the incident, the county’s chief animal control officer, Todd Moser, declined to divulge the findings of the investigation into the incident or make Claughton available for an interview. Moser said an investigation was continuing.

Attempts to contact Sherriff Fred Clark for comment were unsuccessful.

Waddle, recounting the conversation she had with Claughton after return of the dog to its owner, said the animal control officer expressed the view he had no choice but to give Slick back to Jones because “it was part of a hunting pack.” Moser denied this portion of Waddle’s account, although he confirmed that the dog’s tracking collar remained on the dog at all times.

Moser offered that most of dogs currently at the Animal Control facility are hunting dogs, many in worse shape than Slick.

In the News & Record’s initial interview with Moser, the animal control chief declined to divulge the information that Slick had been euthanized. Asked about the omission in a follow-up interview, Moser replied, “It was not something I felt you needed to know.”

“I am on vacation, and there is plenty of time when I return to sit down with Claughton to discuss the matter,” said Moser. He added, “I trust my officers, and do not second guess them.”

Contacted for her version of events, Deputy Yates referred all questions to the animal control office. She said she did not investigate the matter or generate any paperwork on it.

Asked Thursday for any available information pertaining to the charges brought against Waddle, Smith — the magistrate who green-lighted the misdemeanor and felony counts — promised to check on what information she could release and return the phone call. No return call was forthcoming Thursday or Friday.

Waddle’s first hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 11 a.m.in General District Court, but only for assignment of an attorney. Waddle found an attorney willing to take her case but he requires an upfront $5,000 retainer fee. Waddle set up a Go Fund Me page at https://www.gofundme.com/tg7qav-urgent.

— With additional reporting by Tom McLaughlin

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Comments

Nick does not take care of his hounds. Very few out here do. This dumb wives tale that a dog that gets feed wont hunt is ignorant. truck hunters will abandon their non running dogs at end of season turning to get by on their own often getting hit by cars and trucks. If a collar is on the dog they stop to take the collar but leave the carcass on the roadside. So many truck hunting idiots out here trying to convince us that these emaciated dogs are in prime health belies the stupidity in this county. For mr moser why isnt your team investigating each kennel for shot records and well being of these hounds? There needs to be a tightening of regs for all truck hound hunters with kennel licenses. Another ? for moser have you sent your officers to nicks kennels to inspect the condition of his dogs and shouldnt ll his dogs be teated as well as those hounds suspected of being near this dog?nick should be charged for not having shot records and whatever results from kennel inspections

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The fact that Nick Jones turned this dog out in this condition is an insult to hunters who take proper care of their dogs. Moser should find previous owner of this dog although i suspect this a a lie and verify Nicks statement. These dogs dont get in this bad condition overnight. Shame on you Nick. You owe good hound hunters an apology. Mose you dropped the ball on releasing the dog in this condition. Have you been properly trained in animal welfare??

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Just wondering ...if she called in to 911 about the dog creating a dangerous issue on 360 and also attempted to call the owner And was taking dog to animal control that doesnt seem like any grounds for arrest. And if the CA decides not to press charges seems Waddle should charge the 5 Bozos for attempted kidnapping when they surrounded her car preventing her from leaving....and Nick should be charged with animal cruelty

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This lady should contact the Animal Legal Defend Fund (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) or call 707-795-2533). Another organization, Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) just did an undercover investigation on four cattle farms in FL. The Sheriff was friends with the owners (sound familiar), but it went national and is still under investigation. These diary farms are losing MAJOR contracts with companies like Publix. Several abusers have been arrested and more to come. Illegal hunters in Virginia are abusive! Both to home owners and animals. They ruin hunting for all hunters. I have photo's of starving dogs that would make most people sick. I feel bad for this poor women as I have been surrounded by armed men breaking the law. And DO write your elected representatives and keep the paper trail.

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It is clear to anyone that not all,but most hunting dog owners do not feed them enough food. It is rare to see a dog that is truly taken care of as they should be. Every dog should have their rabbits shot and a tag as required for every dog owner. Why didn't Mr. Mosier inspect the owner's kennel after seeing this dog? If he didn't see the dog and one of them people that work under should have done so and notified Mr. Mosier of what the owners other dogs looked like and what the records showed for all other dogs. Did they not see this dog didn't have a tag? The owner said he was hunting this dog so he knew the condition of this dog and knew it didn't have a tag either. Someone with the pictures of the dog should contact the ASPCA and the Humane Society. This needs to stop!

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This is not all about the condition of the dog (which does look bad). It is also about 2 wrongs not making a right. If this lady doesn't like a speed limit can she just go the speed she wants too? She allegedly called the owner to give back but when someone shows up to get the dog she does not give it back, sounds like she had no intention of giving up which is stealing no matter the condition. You broke the Law now suck it up butter cup and stop asking people to help fund your ignorance of the law.

Comments

KNOW THE LAW

It is a class one misdemeanor in Virginia to remove a tracking collar (§ 18.2-97.1). The penalty may be up to a one thousand dollar fine and one year in prison. Obviously, there are other charges that may be filed related to the destruction or attempt to dispose of the collar. The theft of the dog (§18.2-97) or killing a dog (§ 18.2-144) are both class five felonies with prison time, fines and the loss of citizenship (loss of the right to keep and bear arms) as a consequence. It is unlawful for any person to deliver or release any animal not owned by that person to a pound, animal shelter or humane society or to pretend to be the agent of the owner (§ 18.2-144.2).

Comments

Get the Governors' attention. Go to http://change.org and you may get thousands of signatures sent in a petition in just a few days?

Comments

Not passing any judgement here, but I would not put my hands on any strange dog. That is a good way to get bitten. If the dog has a collar I don't give them a second look. If the dog is incapacitated in any way it is best to call animal control. I see dogs all the time especially during hunting season. Dogs will roam the country side if they are loose. That is what dogs do.

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Know the law is the guy who trespasses onto property he doesnt have permission to hunt. Hes the type of guy that stands next to his truck with his shotgun looking across the blacktop waiting for a deer to come out. Hes the type of guy who is disrespectful to landowners and thinks everybodies property is for his dawg to run on.

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Truck Hunter I based my comments off of facts stated in the article and the Law. You are making assumptions and casting judgment without any knowledge. Let me guess you voted for Mrs. Clinton too.

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Nope. But figured most truck hunters out here are socialists as you feel entitled to hunt land you dont own, dont have permission.Never cared much for socialists but most of the speciallaws created to allow truck hunters immunity from simple trespass laws will end in next two years either by legislative or court case. we know how the game is played by the truck hunters releasing dogs on posted lands they cant hunt and not making effort to retrieve when gps collars show exactly where the dog is. The garmin collars are good for little over 48 hours if kept charged properly. How do i know this?most of the field trials mislabled as fox or coyote are bogus we know the dogs are running deer. Whats the code fir running dogs out of season or running in pens where they are known to have allowed deer to enter??

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"Know the law" states to Truck Hunter,"you make assumptions and casting judgement without any knowledge." THEN says, Let me guess you voted for Mrs. Clinton too". Now if that is not making an assumption I don't know what is. "Know the Law" was also condescending toward MS Waddle by calling her "Butter Cup". Let me see, that would make "Know the Law" Butter-Nut or Butterball-less.

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To know the law...you don't read so good. That collar was never removed from the dog.

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Oh yes Mr. Knowthelaw...larceny requires intent to deprive the owner of property permanently. Perhaps you should change your screen name to "Idon'tknowthelaw"

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I don't understand how she could be charged the article states that the dog and collar were given back tonowner and owner put the dog down. So first Ms. Waddle was correct that they dog was very sick it also states she contacted owner and animal control and that when she was surrounded by 5 grown men cursing and threatening her that she was told by 911 officer to get in car lock doors and remain there until.police arrived which she did and then released dogs to animal control.that turned them.over to owners so how can she be arrested for doing what she was told by officer to do?

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No Healthy DOG looks this way...NOT evan a greyhound. Truck Hunting Should be BANNED. Accidents waiting to happen. I recently saw two dogs eating a dead dear on the side of 360. If they were your dogs you were not taking care of them. One they would not be on the highway and Two they would not be eating that dear that got hit by a car after you drove him from the woods......Dog hunting and truck hunting is not a sport. Maybe you people with that beer cooler and dog cage on the back of your trucks think so....NOT.

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Everyone needs to educate themselves on distemper. Distemper is a virus that is spread through the air and can be obtained by direct or indirect contact by other animals. It cause numerous symptoms aneroxia being one. If not vaccinated for this when young the dog has no immunity from catching it and in this gentlemens case he stated he purchased the dog a few months prior and chances are the dog already had distemper since Jones stated he would not gain any weight

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If he had the dog for a few months as stated and was unsure about dog shots shouldn't he have had them.done himself.to be sure

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Distemper? Oh, please. If hunting dogs are not required to be vaccinated, then Fish and Game should be sued. The Vet would have to do blood work to determine if the dog had distemper and since the police were involved it should be mandatory. Hunting dogs can carry and transmit deadly disease like rabies and leptospirosis just to mention a few. Every county should keep vaccination records on all hunting dogs. Your child could die from rabies should they have contact with a sick hunting dog. When is Fish and Game going to wake up!


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