The recent coverage of the emerging problems inside Tulare County Animal Control (TCAC) is of public interest, where it resurrects issues significantly impacting county residents–particularly disabled persons relying upon service or support animals.
From the November 20, 2014 Valley Voice article, “Tulare County Sued by Former Animal Control Employees”:
“In 2013, Animal Control took in 9,000 animals but only adopted out 700, which is well below a 10% survival rate. Within California, Tulare County Animal Control is considered a “kill shelter.”
One need not be a mathematician to deduce that nearly all animals taken or otherwise confiscated by TCAC are, in most cases, doomed. Why such a high level of carnage? Under what conditions are animals dying or being killed in TCAC? What is the “chain of custody” of those carcasses? It falls to the public to monitor the policies, practices and procedures of TCAC.
Animal lovers throughout Tulare County may recall the Carcasses-for-Cash scandal of 2007. According to an investigative report by the sheriff’s office at that time, Michael Sargeant, William Harmon, and Ron Cookson were arrested in June of 2007 for participating in an “off the books” arrangement where Harmon and Cookson carried out unauthorized mass euthanasia at TCAC – reportedly by nonstandard and painful methods – and then falsified county records to cover their tracks. Sargeant would then purchase the carcasses whenever Harmon notified him of euthanized animals ready for pick up, and then sell them to UC Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine.
In light of facts and recent history, it becomes less a question of why TCAC is killing so many animals, and more a question of how much revenue is possibly being generated from these murders. Assuming a standard price of $2.50 for each carcass, multiplied by 8,300 TCAC carcasses in 2013, the possible revenue from selling carcasses that year could have been well over $20,000. A motive for mass confiscation is not only plausible, but probable; in fact historical for rampant confiscation of any animal TCAC could then get its hands on. A glance at Wendy Jones’ case correlates with this concern.
From the January 15, 2015 Valley Voice article, “More Trouble at Tulare County Animal Control”, TCAC confiscated “Clyde” during an apparent court case, but prior to its resolution, and under questionable authority for doing so.
“Before she received the decision on her appeal, on the morning of January 2, Deputy Young of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department and an off-duty animal control officer in uniform, Chris Carothers, showed up at the kennel to seize her dog, Jones said. The kennel is next door to her home. … The dog was loaded into the animal control truck and taken to the TCAC facility in Visalia. … Jones telephoned the Sheriff’s Department and asked who was assigned to go the kennel [to] collect Clyde. She was told that nobody was given such an assignment. She also discovered that Carothers was not scheduled to work at TCAC that day.”
Jones’ concern regarding the deputy and Carothers’ legal authority to confiscate “Clyde” is not an isolated one. I met William Fabricius in Tulare County Superior Court back in 2009. I was (and still am) dealing with incredible judicial corruption in my case and met him on the same field. Fabricius, a long-time disabled Navy veteran and resident of southern Tulare County, found himself the target of TCAC shortly after standing up to what he claims is unlawful child support wage garnishment in his family law case in Tulare County Superior Court.
Fabricius, who has never had children, challenged the court’s sanctioning of what he says is “child support program fraud” – and found himself immediately targeted, he claims, by County Counsel. Fabricius states he believes that County Counsel utilized TCAC to target him in retaliation for his disfavor with court officials.
“I upset the family court by challenging what appears to be systemic corruption, and like others I’ve heard about, I found myself targeted by County Counsel. They target you where they can hurt you the most; your loved ones.” he stated. “They hit you where you live.”
A request by County Counsel for a warrant to confiscate Fabricius’ dogs based on allegations that they were “vicious” was authored by Kathleen Taylor, and signed overnight by Judge Valeriano Saucedo, who is currently under investigation for judicial corruption.
Fabricius claims he was targeted twice by TCAC on the same charges, the first occasion in April of 2013 and the second in October of 2013.
Fabricius was handcuffed and forced to sit on a sheriff cruiser bumper in the cold (he claims he later came down with bronchitis from it) while eight dogs were stolen from him. On the second occasion in October, a larger mix of sheriff’s deputies and TCAC agents descended on his ranch, this time detaining him without cuffs while they rummaged through his home and outbuildings for nearly two hours.
“It was a police state nightmare.” he recalls. “The first time, I was handcuffed and forced me to sit on the bumper of one of their cruisers while I watched them prowl through my home and property. The second time they came, they again bullied me and treated my dogs savagely. They were shooting them with tranquilizer darts and dragging them with noose wands. They said they were there to confiscate vicious dogs, but many of my dogs they took were puppies. I mean really? Vicious puppies? And the only time I saw any of my dogs get angry at them was because they were dragging them with noose wands by their throats. My dogs weren’t on someone else’s property; they were guarding my home. On my land. They’ve never bitten anyone. They were simply doing what they were supposed to do. Comforting me. TCAC viciously attacked my dogs and then said they were vicious after the fact.”
Fabricius felt that not only was TCAC’s authority to confiscate his animals falsified, but that he subsequently endured sham hearings by the county before a local lawyer he says rigged the case for TCAC.
“The first thing I did was specially appear and challenge Agnello’s jurisdiction, considering he was being paid under Tulare County Agreement No. 7002. I mean the contract makes it obvious he was being paid by the opposing party – Tulare County Animal Control. So it wasn’t like I was getting an impartial hearing according to Haas.” (Referencing Haas v. County of San Bernardino (2002)27 Cal.4th 1017, 119 Cal.Rptr.2d 341; 45 P.3d 280)
Interestingly, Fabricius says his first county hearing on November 25, 2013, involved Paul Grenseman, one of two TCAC employees who were suddenly walked off the job around the same time as the hearing, and are now suing Tulare County. Fabricius says he and his witnesses believe County Counsel purposefully acted to prevent Grenseman from testifying
Whether or not his claim of prosecutorial misconduct is true, it would appear to answer the mystery of Grenseman’s swift and sudden removal from TCAC, as noted in the November 20, 2014 Valley Voice article, “Tulare County Sued by Former Animal Control Employees”:
“It is still unknown why the county felt that Grenseman posed such a threat that he needed to be escorted off of county property, especially in light of the fact that, just two months prior, he was considered a model employee.”
Others in the community who had been unfairly treated by County Council warned Fabricius about their lawyer’s tactics.
“It surprised me at first, but only briefly. I’m fully aware of the things County Counsel has done to others here in Tulare County, such as Pamela Fox of Fox v. Tulare County. I’m aware of the part they played in Ronald Pierce’s case. We really haven’t progressed at all beyond the days of Tulare County prosecutorial misconduct such as we saw in the Mark Sodersten case. Everyone knows the District Attorney’s Office and County Counsel’s office are the same animal, no pun intended.” Fabricius says. “The judicial corruption in Tulare County isn’t ever going away until the public investigates the civil rights abuses and inbred cronyism pervading local government here. Until then, both the county and its superior court will continue to resemble Ferguson Municipal Court.” (Referring to the USDOJ “Pattern and Practice” Report on Ferguson Municipal Court and Police Department in recent news.)
Not surprisingly, he says the judge ruled in favor of TCAC after the November hearing. Fabricius, a veteran living on a fixed income, was then sent a bill for $30,747.14 for impound, boarding and vet bills for his dogs. This bill had to be paid to secure the release and return of his remaining surviving comfort animals. The cost was complicated by the fact that 10 of his dogs had already died at TCAC from parvo, complications from not being fully weaned yet, and attacks from other dogs due to close quartering.
“I’d go into the shelter and whistle for them; try to let them know I was still there – trying to save them. They would answer me in the beginning. Now there’s only silence,” Fabricius said with heavy sadness.
The dismal fate of Fabricius’ dogs is reflected in a transcript of Fabricius’ December 18, 2013 hearing, in an examination by Kathleen Taylor of Cecile Shafer, TCAC’s contracted veterinarian who claims to “visit the shelter routinely every Saturday to observe the animals that are there and to make sure that there is — that they’re in good general health.”
Q. (By MS. TAYLOR) Now, at some point after the — some of the dogs were taken into the shelter, several of them died; is that right?
Q. Was there any examination conducted of those animals?
A. Yes. The shelter staff notified me on the 25th that they found one of the young puppies deceased in the kennel, and then I examined them on the 26th. So, that was a Friday they called and told me, and I went out the next day to examine the animals However, on the 29th, two more puppies were found deceased, and those animals were sent to UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine for — they call it necropsy but it’s an autopsy by a boarded pathologist.
Q. And what were the results of that necropsy?
A. The results were that the pathologist determined that the cause of death was Parvo virus, and then the veterinarian went on to describe the changes in the tissues, that the gross or just visualized level down to the cellular level of the changes they saw and what caused the death of the puppies.”
Under cross examination by Fabricius:
Q. So, you know, you’re testifying that the animals — they died in custody of the animal shelter?
A. They did.
Fabricius states he believes it was no coincidence the veterinarian involved in his case on behalf of TCAC, who he claims was also being paid by TCAC under Tulare County Agreement No. 7255, is from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine – the same office involved in the Carcasses-for-Cash scandal back in Tulare 2007.
“I think she (Cecile) wasn’t just there to check on dogs. I think she may be a Class B dealer like Michael Sargeant maybe; in any case, my comfort animals were unlawfully stolen from my property, died badly, and ended up at the same university vet school that Michael Sargeant was selling carcasses to. If you ask me, Carcasses-for-Cash is still going strong at Tulare County Animal Shelter.”
Like Wendy Jones, Fabricius is challenging what he calls TCAC’s “government-organized animal rustling” in Tulare County Superior Court. However, his efforts to secure a straightforward hearing there, he says, have also run into obstacles which he again attributes to County Counsel.
“Being an attorney for the county gets the scales of justice tipped in your favor, oftentimes,” Fabricius remarks. “And when you consider that the county has a lot of things going on that the general public probably wouldn’t take kindly to, you get an environment that favors prosecutorial misconduct. The more you assert your rights and transparency, the more misconduct you experience. It seems like the public really isn’t fully aware that government lawyers are just as capable of dirty legal tricks as those in the private sector. In my experience, they get away with it a lot more than private sector attorneys. And the public just accepts everything they do as legitimate. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All the public has to do is actually stop and ‘look under the hood’ as they say. The real truth is abundant. Don’t just take my word for it. There are many people here in Tulare County alone that have been dealing with the same. I mean it’s not like it hasn’t happened already. Look at what happened to Mark Sodersten.”
Considering the alarming rise in animal deaths at TCAC, it’s history of scandal, and the increasingly questionable acts coming to light, another investigation needs must be done to determine whether or not TCAC has returned to its previous animal trafficking.
Put somewhere between the Tulare County Sheriff’s “Gun-Raffle” debacle which Fabricius says he also fell prey to, the recent courthouse scandal centered around Judge Saucedo, the child porn scandal of the Porterville Fire Department, and the illuminating case of Fox v. County of Tulare – the picture painted is one of disturbingly corrupt Tulare County governance.
Editor’s note – “According to a former TCAC manager who had witnessed part of what was described above, and was sympathetic to Bill Fabricius’ plight, TCAC and County Council had plausible cause to do what they did. The underlining problem in this case, the Wendy Jones case, and potentially others is that the Tulare County Animal Control Ordinance used for the plausible cause is poorly written and woefully insufficient. The poorly written ordinance opens up the opportunity for abuse by other arms of the government. The former TCAC employee feels that all of Fabricious’ dogs have been euthanized.”
DISCLAIMER: THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR OF THIS ARTICLE, ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OR BELIEFS OF THE VALLEY VOICE, OR ITS STAFF.