Fighting cruelty

Care2 online petition collects nearly 100,000 signatures in 10 days;
Public outraged at judge’s decision to return dozens of animal victims to alleged abusers;
Chris and Claire White each still face 10 state felony counts of animal cruelty

Since a Delaware County Judge ordered the return of dozens of animal victims to their alleged abusers Chris and Claire White, tens of thousands of people have signed the Care2 online petition asking Delaware County District Attorney to appeal the ruling so the animal victims can be rescued a second time. The total number of signatures is expected to surpass 100,000 on Monday, November 7.

Judge Alicia Littlefield’s ruling on October 27, 2016 was made in her chambers behind closed doors. Chris and Clare Whites each still face 10 state felony counts of animal cruelty.

“The public is outraged over this dangerous ruling,” said Jamee Suarez, president of the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, noting that the Oklahoma state forfeiture law requires defendants to be found “not guilty” in a court of law before even qualifying to ask for the return of animal victims.

The number of people who have already signed the petition is more than double the entire population of Delaware County, Oklahoma.

“Since the return, neighbors have called 911 and recorded several audios documenting disturbing animal cries, howls, barking, and yelping,” said Kay Stout, director of PAAS Vinita. “We remain very concerned about the welfare of all of the animals returned as a result of the dangerous ruling.”

Between October 28 and November 1, 19 dogs, three cats, and a couple of dozen young chickens were returned to Chris and Clare White. The Miami Animal Alliance had been caring for the young chickens.

On November 1, OAA sent a letter to the Whites and to the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office with an offer to provide the Whites with free donated dog and cat food. OAA also stated in the letter that they would again take custody of any or all of the animals that the Whites wish to permanently surrender, noting that properly caring for dozens of dogs and cats would be a challenge for any family.

“We have received no response from the Whites regarding the offer,” said Suarez, noting that state licensed veterinarians did benchmark and document the weight and health conditions on the date that DCSO took the animals.

In the 14 weeks that the animal victims were with animal welfare organizations, the nonprofit groups – including OAA, PAAS Vinita, Miami Animal Alliance, and Tulsa SPCA – incurred more than $30,000 in medical and boarding costs. One dog in the care of PAAS Vinita had just completed a special training program with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections before she was returned to her alleged abusers.

On July 15, 2016, the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) seized more than 40 dogs, pups, cats along with chicks and about 300 chickens from property owned by Chris and Clare White. DCSO signed release documents transferring the animals to the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals (OAA) and its animal welfare partner organizations. On about July 18 Chris White signed paperwork surrendering the ownership of the animals to DCSO.

“Our hearts are broken for the animal victims and remain very concerned about their welfare,” said Suarez. “We still have no additional details about the decision.”

OAA, PAAS Vinita, and Miami Animal Alliance will continue to fight for justice and the welfare of the animal victims. The Care2 online petition is still open and the animal welfare nonprofit organizations involved in the case are encouraging people to sign and continue to share.
The organizations are closely watching another animal cruelty case in the same county with the same judge, same defense attorney, and same district attorney. Dennis and Lisa Garcia each face six state felony counts of animal cruelty after an open mass grave was found on their property July 4, 2016.

OAA tracks cruelty cases on its website at http://animalallianceok.org/programs/fighting-cruelty/