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Mom, daughter accused of stealing canine after owners left it outdoors in single-digit temps

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Two ladies in Tennessee are going through theft expenses over allegations that they took a canine from homeowners who left it outdoors throughout December’s arctic blast.

The mother-daughter duo now intends to battle the costs in courtroom. However the canine nonetheless hasn’t been reunited with its homeowners, and the suspects have thus far refused to reveal whether or not they know the animal’s location.

Police obtain a grievance

Simply earlier than 5 pm on Dec. 23, temperatures on the Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Sullivan County, Tennessee, measured round 8 levels Fahrenheit. The Storm Staff at Nexstar’s WJHL additionally predicted winds from 15 to 25 mph and likes as much as 40 mph.

With the wind chill, meteorologist Alex Williams mentioned, “harmful” chilly temperatures might plunge to twenty under later that night.

The canine was chained contained in the shelter, which had an open entrance and a tarp as cowl. (Picture/SCSO)

Round that point, a deputy with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Workplace (SCSO) responded to a house in Bristol following a grievance from an nameless caller. The deputy arrived to discover a feminine German Shepherd chained into an open-front shelter that consisted of a tarp, a plastic canine home, and what seemed to be contemporary straw on the bottom.

The deputy mentioned the water within the canine’s bowl had frozen from the chilly. The officer was additionally unsuccessful in reaching the canine’s homeowners at their residence from him.

The water within the canine’s bowl, a deep steel bucket, had already frozen when deputies arrived. (Picture/SCSO)

The deputy spoke to a consultant of A Voice for Pets, a non-profit group based mostly in Tennessee. The consultant arrived on the scene and related the officer with Karen Fox of Sullivan County Animal Management.

Fox mentioned Sullivan County Animal Management had already been to the residence earlier within the day and located the canine with meals and frozen water, in keeping with the deputy. Fox was planning to go to the canine once more the subsequent day.

She suggested the deputy to offer the canine contemporary water. The deputy additionally gave the animal some ham.

Harley goes lacking

Later that very same day, simply after 8 pm, temperatures within the area plummeted to round 4-5 levels Fahrenheit. Sullivan County 911 operators acquired one other name, this time from residents of the property the place the canine was discovered.

Harley, their five-year-old German Shepherd, was gone, they mentioned.

Harley’s homeowners instructed deputies they knew officers had visited earlier that day. The homeowners claimed they had been away selecting up their grandchildren on the time, however deliberate to let the canine inside after they returned.

Deputies with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Workplace considered surveillance footage from the property and reported seeing a white car parked close by. A lady obtained out of the automotive and appeared to stroll across the aspect of the home close to Harley’s location earlier than the canine was noticed working by means of the yard.

In a later shot, deputies mentioned, Harley was seen sitting within the again seat of the car earlier than it drove away.

The arrests

On the morning of Jan. 6, 2023, Virginia and Jillian Shackelford of Bluff Metropolis had been arrested by SCSO deputies for allegedly stealing Harley on that December day.

The mom and daughter had been charged with theft as much as $1,000, a Class A misdemeanor in Tennessee. Harley’s homeowners estimated her worth at $800, in keeping with the police report.

Animal care activists within the area rallied across the two on social media as that they had been calling for Harley’s launch and celebrating her removing on Dec. 23. Advocates for anti-chain legal guidelines and stricter animal ordinances criticized the arrests as nicely.

Virginia Shackelford, who goes by Ginny, instructed WJHL in a message that she believed Harley’s disappearance needs to be described as a rescue effort to save lots of the animal from sub-zero temperatures. Shackelford refused to say how she discovered of Harley’s scenario.

After a number of makes an attempt at contact, together with a go to to the residence, WJHL has not heard again from Harley’s homeowners.

Captain Andy Seabolt with SCSO mentioned investigators gave the Shackelfords “a number of alternatives” to return Harley to her unique homeowners earlier than escalating to prison expenses. When the mom and daughter had been requested to reveal the canine’s location, Seabolt mentioned they refused, and the warrant course of started.

“A number of occasions the investigator spoke to the suspects in an try and find the stolen canine,” Seabolt wrote in an electronic mail to WJHL. “The suspects refused to cooperate as I acknowledged earlier, and the investigator consulted with the Sullivan County District Lawyer’s Workplace. Warrants had been obtained for the theft and served.”

An SCSO investigator mentioned the Shackelfords had different avenues they might have exhausted earlier than taking the canine.

“There is a proper means and a fallacious technique to do issues,” mentioned Captain Richard Frazier, the commanding officer of SCSO’s prison investigations division. “In the event that they thought that it wasn’t being completed quick sufficient, I want they’d have referred to as us again and possibly spoken to a patrol supervisor. Possibly they might have gotten a faster reply there or one thing else might have been completed.”

Frazier mentioned that SCSO’s first precedence is to return Harley to her homeowners. If the Shackelfords had handed her over, he mentioned, then issues might need gone in another way.

“We did simply need to get the canine again to the homeowners,” Frazier mentioned. “They did not cooperate with the investigation, so far as the suspects go. All we wished was information of the canine. Simply inform us the place the canine is. We’ll go get it. We’ll deal with every part from there.”

In response to Sullivan County District Lawyer Barry Staubus, at the very least two investigations are ongoing regarding the Shackelfords and Harley’s homeowners. WJHL requested recordings of the 911 calls positioned on Dec. 23—each the decision made by the nameless individual and the decision positioned by Harley’s homeowners—however the requests had been denied because of the ongoing investigations.

When requested, Staubus didn’t touch upon whether or not he anticipated prison expenses in opposition to Harley’s homeowners as nicely. As of earlier this week, no different expenses had been filed in both investigation.

The Shackelfords are set to look at 9 am in Sullivan County Common Classes Court docket on Jan. 30.

“Each Ms. Jillian Shackelford and Ms. Ginny Shackelford shall plead not responsible,” Julie Canter, the Shackelfords’ lawyer, instructed WJHL. “The State has the burden of proof past an inexpensive doubt. We intend to aggressively and actively battle the allegations and expenses. My agency is presently conducting an unbiased investigation into the circumstances surrounding the arrests and allegations.”

As of final week, police mentioned Harley’s whereabouts are nonetheless unclear.

The legislation: What are you able to do?

Tennessee has no present legal guidelines that shield the common citizen from prison expenses after they take an animal in opposition to its proprietor’s consent, regardless of the circumstances. The state does, nevertheless, have a “sizzling automotive” legislation that may shield residents from civil legal responsibility in the event that they break right into a locked car to save lots of an animal or minor that they imagine would undergo hurt when left inside. That legislation has particular limitations, together with a clause requiring residents to inform first responders and stay close by with the animal or minor.

In response to the Sullivan County Lawyer’s workplace, no formal animal ordinance is on file with the county. Animal management officers instructed WJHL they comply with state legal guidelines on the matter.

“Usually, all we will do is what the animal management [says],’” Frazier mentioned. “As soon as we test every part, enough shelter, meals and water, we have to show it over to them.”

Whereas animal issues are largely left to animal management, Frazier mentioned that does not cease the occasional deputy from taking a name personally.

“I do know a few of us have put animals at the back of our cruisers earlier than, however we’re simply not outfitted to cope with it,” Frazier mentioned. “And numerous occasions, as soon as that is occurred, animal management has come and obtained the canine. We simply haven’t got something to do with them.”

With regards to the removing of animals for issues like neglect, Frazier mentioned that request has to return from Animal Management. Seabolt mentioned he does not recall the final time a name like that got here by means of the workplace.

“Name us. We’ll ahead it on to the correct authorities,” Frazier mentioned. “Do not take it upon your self to go on someone else’s property and take their pet.”

In response to Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-14-202, anybody who “knowingly ties, tethers, or restrains a canine in a fashion that ends in the canine struggling bodily damage” might be charged with a Class A misdemeanor for cruelty to animals for his or her first offense and a Class E felony for later offenses.

For the complete variations of Tennessee’s animal offenses, you possibly can go to the state’s web site.

In response to the American Veterinary Medical Affiliation (AMVA), chilly climate is a severe danger for even thick-coated canine like German Shepherds. The AMVA mentioned cats and canine should not be left alone outdoors no matter breed when climate is under freezing, a lot much less under zero. If they’re, the AMVA mentioned chilly circumstances can result in cracked/bleeding paw pads, hypothermia, lameness, frostbite and dying.

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