29 Dogs Thieved by Cochise County, AZ

The following timeline was created from information in the 2 linked articles:

  • 12/20/2007: “Marjorie "Heidi" Tipling, a technician at the Pencin Veterinary Clinic in Willcox and a member of PAKS [People Assisting Kindred Spirits]” plays "surprise shopper" and visits the Ratliffs’ home.
  • 3/31/2008: Tipling files a complaint with Callahan (animal control/AC) indicating “that 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… visit in December 2007”
  • 4/??/2008: Warrant was issued
  • 4/16/2008: Dogs seized in Elfrida by Cochise County; Crystal Callahan/AC
  • 4/16/2008: Callahan seized 4 adult dogs and 8 puppies, transported them to Pencin Vet Clinic (located in Willcox AND where the complainant, Tipling, worked).  “Callahan stated the dogs were suffering from ‘gum disease, eye problems, tick scabs, hernias and pale mucous membranes.’”
  • 4/?/2008: Callahan returned and seized 17 more dogs allegedly to obtain "complete medical examination".  “The Ratliffs requested the dogs be taken to their veterinarian in Bisbee, Dr. Charles Behney, until the matter could be resolved. Deputies told them the dogs would go to Pencin and transportation 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.”
  • [Pencin is about 56 miles from the seizure location.  Pantano is about 115 miles from the seizure location.  The usual vet for the animals was 35 miles from the location.]
  • 4/16/2008: “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.’”
  • 5/2008: “the county filed a motion in Justice Court to have the Ratliffs forfeit the dogs”
  • 6/2008: Dogs’ owners file motion to dismiss
  • 6/13/2008: Judge David Morales tossed out the warrant for staleness; dismissed the charges; ordered return of dogs (“transport[ed] the dogs to Behney's office at Ratliff's expense for examination and care” on 6/27/2008)
  • 6/??/2008: “Callahan stated in an affidavit that the dogs couldn't be transported because she didn't know where the dogs were.”
  • “The county appealed the decision by Morales and refused to return the dogs until the appeal had been heard.”
  • 12/16/2008: Judge Wallace Hoggatt upheld on appeal; agreeing with the first judge.
  • 12/31/2009: Ratliffs FILE SUIT (see below).
  • 1/22/2010: “Charges were dismissed with prejudice by the county attorney's office”
  • “The same day, Donna Dunham with PAKS wrote to Callahan stating, ‘All the dogs have expired.’ She stated that instructions were given not to provide ‘extraordinary care.’”
  • 2/9/2010: Judge Morales mandated return of the dogs “The county failed to comply.”

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." The agreement also acknowledges that the owner of the animal has the "right to access the animal."

Copies of 10 foster care agreements from PAKS were provided to Hicks, but no other information was given about the whereabouts of the remaining 19 dogs.

The Ratliffs' attorney Perry Hicks states in the tort claim, "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 [Cochise County],
  • the sheriff's department,
  • the animal control division and
  • Callahan. The Ratliffs allege unlawful search and seizure, wrongful taking of property, violation of the right to privacy, negligent entrustment and negligence as stated in the complaint filed Dec. 31 in Superior Court.

Also named in the suit are

  • PAKS [People Assisting Kindred Spirit],
  • Pencin Veterinary Clinic,
  • Pantano Animal Clinic,
  • Mary Pencin,
  • [Marjorie "Heidi"]Tipling,
  • Donna Dunham,
  • Karen Radcliff,
  • Darlene Burnett,
  • Mary Hinton,
  • Sherry Hoard,
  • Jenelle Rodenberg
  • and associated people involved in allegations of civil conspiracy, malicious prosecution, and aiding and abetting tortious conduct.

See also here.

McNeal resident Mike Jackson commented, “ There is no reason for any citizen of Cochise County to have any trust or confidence in a Cochise County ACO. That’s the lesson from the ongoing Ratliff case, in which animals were seized by ACO Crystal Callahan. (The dogs) were kept in the legal custody of the county and were not returned to the owner after a court order. According to the county, all the animals died, even though the county previously said the dogs had been doing well in custody. What a coincidence — the simultaneous death of over two dozen animals after the dismissal of the animal control complaint. The circumstances are so suspicious that animal control should not expect to be trusted with any power.”

Most assuredly, this group (including and most especially the government agents) should be criminally charged and PROSECUTED for their actions.

I’ve been asked about RICO and these kinds of cases and am somewhat hesitant to go there.  Is it appropriate to use a law intended to deal with organized crime on the BIG levels in these cases?  Then I see a list of defendants like in this case and I must seriously reconsider my hesitation as it surely looks more and more like an organized crime to me.  The residents of Cochise County are certainly not alone as we see these abuses across the country now.

I’d go off on one of my rants now except: 1) This one is SO self-evident; and 2) Nothing I would say in this particular rant would be suitable for publication outside a bar filled with longshoremen (or lawyers).

1/21/2010: The last 2 dates in the timeline were corrected to "2010".  Sorry for the error and THANK YOU to those who pointed it out!

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