Who says there is justice for all? It doesn’t appear to be the Indiana Attorney General’s Office
AR-HR.com Indiana Dog Raid Update on Blog Talk Radio
Date / Time: 8/15/2009 6:00 PM ET
Call-in Number: (347) 838-9842
Welcome to the first “Animal Rights or Human Responsibility” podcast.
Anyone who’s been following the website would be aware that I’ve been running a series for a while now, looking at the circumstances surrounding a tax evasion case in Indiana. Back on June 3 (correction June 2), there was the seizure of 241 dogs from a farm in Maukport, Indiana belonging to a family called the Garwoods, otherwise known as Breezy Valley Dairy Farm. Well now, there were media reports all over this, over the fact the dogs were seized, over the fact that we were dealing with or at least we were being told as an audience that the key issue with this case was that the dogs were being seized under a jeopardy tax warrant.
What made this case a little bit odd was that that as we often see the Humane Society of the United States was involved in the raid and the seizure of the dogs. Then it was noticed that Indiana House Representative Linda Lawson was volunteering as part the raid. Within 24 hours of the seizure, the dogs were dispersed out to a variety of shelters and rescues, .some of which were outside the Indiana state borders. Now, there were some citizens who were little bit concerned about this and they were e-mailing the Indiana Atty. Gen.’s office with a series of questions:
Since the property been garnished for taxes owed, why has property been given to an organization such as the Humane Society of the United States? (although it’s had a history of being animal welfare organization, these days it really is predominantly involved in political lobbying. This is something that came out a few months ago in a presentation during sweeps week by WSB TV.) So, why was the political lobbying organization being involved in the dog raid? It seems a little strange.
If the property was being get garnished for taxes owed, and this was the only property seized in this case, why was the property been given away? (Since property that’s taken on the premises of a jeopardy tax warrant is really being seized as collateral and is often sold to get the tax money, in the basics.)
When citizens were e-mailing the Indiana Atty. Gen.’s office, they were not getting satisfactory responses and some complaints started circulating in the dog community.
Despite pointed questions asking about the conduct of the officials, the responses being sent out by the Indiana Atty. Gen.’s office boiled down to a very short form letter that said, “Thank you for your inquiry, but our office cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.” There is a problem with this response, and it is a twofold problem:
The Atty. Gen.’s office was already commenting on the investigation at length in the media. So, why wouldn’t they talk to constituents?
The other problem is that inquiries that were being sent weren’t asking for them for the Indiana Atty. Gen.’s office to address details of that investigation case but in fact to address the conduct of the Atty. Gen.’s office
So, these were being ignored, and this is really where Animal Rights or Human Responsibility as an organization stepped in and started looking a little bit harder and we started writing about it. I do the primary writing but I certainly have some assistance from other dedicated animal people who have similar kinds of concerns. And the questions went out in the first article, which got released back in June, on June 11.
Now I’m just running through history on this because if you haven’t been reading website you probably want to know where this was coming from. As the court case started swirling through, there started to be more issues that came up; such as the fact that the judge in the case was asking the Atty. Gen.’s office, “What happened to Due Process?” For those not familiar with the term Due Process, this means that the judge had concerns that the constitutional rights of the Garwoods had been violated in this raid. Also, the judge (Judge Tad Whitis) was concerned about why the dogs had been dispersed and what happened to the money and where were these dogs anyway?
What came out in the filing of court documents was that when the dogs were originally seized, they were seized under the terms of a “seize and hold” order. What this meant was that in the court order it says (the actual documents which can be found on the Animal Rights or Human Responsibility website) that the dogs were to be seized and to be held onto until further instruction from the court. That hasn’t happened, there’s been no further instruction from the court to authorize those dogs being dispersed. Yet, the dogs were dispersed within 24 hours. Not only that there was documentation filed that demonstrated that the dogs were not given into the care of the main societies United States for safekeeping, they were sold to the Humane Society of the United States, at which point the HSUS (as they are called in short) was free to disperse them however they wished. They were, as the legal owners free to give them away, free to sell them, free to even have them euthanized if they had have wished. We don’t know of any cases of that happening, but at this point what we do know is that the dogs were dispersed to a number of shelters and a number of these dogs started being adopted out. Somewhere along the line around (the end of) June, word went out from the Indiana Atty. Gen.’s office to some of the shelters to stop dispersing the dogs. The dogs were no longer being put up for adoption, instead they were being put into what are called foster homes. So, they were being held onto in private homes for an indefinite period of time.
Fair enough. While these dogs were being held, it really has raised questions in the eyes of the judge who’s been seeing this case, why were these dogs sold for the amount of $300 (which is the amount that’s on the sale contract, also available on the Animal Rights or Human Responsibility website) when the outstanding tax that was claimed by the Indiana Atty. Gen.’s office was in excess of $132,000?
So what has happened is that, in summary, the dogs that were seized as collateral on $132,000 were sold for $300; which is the only collateral that the State of Indiana had in this case. The spin on this story’s been unusual as well, because the “rescued animals now being cared for by the Humane Society of United States” (as termed in the Indiana Atty. Gen. offices press release) weren’t rescued animals, they were sold animals. And as I said, as sold property according to the sale contract, the HSUS could do whatever they want with them. The problem is these dogs were not free to be disbursed by court order. They were not free to be sold by the terms of the search warrant. This is key, because within this week at least one of the shelters involved that was holding these dogs (specifically the New Albany/Floyd County Animal Shelter) put out an advertisement through FOX41 indicating that they would be adopting these dogs out. There were 20 dogs left in their possession from this original raid. These dogs were now free to be adopted out, with the permission of the Indiana Atty. Gen.’s office, even though there has been no change in the court’s instruction. The seize and hold order remains in place. There’s been no court order releasing the hold on the dogs. Yet, the Indiana Atty. Gen.’s office has yet again issued instructions to have those dogs released to the public for adoption.
Its even weirder if you look at the fact that, as sold property, only the HSUS or the shelter are the ones who have the authority to decide whether or not the dogs are offered up for adoption because, as sold property, the Indiana Atty. Gen.’s office shouldn’t have any say one way or the other on where those dogs go.
This does raise some significant questions, (a) why have the dogs been released for adoption without there being further court order (b) why are these individuals from the Indiana Atty. Gen.’s office specifically assuring the shelters that it’s okay for them to be adopting these dogs out and (c) why they think they have the right to do so, if they have no legal entitlement to these dogs anymore.
So they’re odd questions and they’re somewhat confusing. There doesn’t seem to much in the way of answers coming. It’s unfortunate because at this point it makes it very difficult to determine whether the Garwoods’ will be able to get their dogs back. These are dogs that were not in ill condition. If anybody cares to look at the Humane Society of the United States’ own photos and own video, all dogs but one were clean, one dog had mud in its coat. (which does prevent people from saying that the dogs were always on wire) So it’s its a little strange, with clean dogs seized as collateral and they’re being dispersed for essentially $1.25 a piece, at the expense of the State of Indiana taxpayers. So, we’re still looking into this and will be continuing to look into this and hopefully we will be able to get more in the way of answers.