The only term I can think of to describe what is currently going on in Goochland County is kabuki theater: a bunch of artificial posturing in strange get-ups. You probably have seen the various news reports about the fire at Annette Thompson’s house – reports in which she was termed a “longtime animal rescuer.” Then, more recently, the news reports have been about her having been convicted of neglect in the past and her now being charged again with several counts of animal cruelty relating to the approximately 75 dogs on her property. Now, we are seeing the Goochland County officials on TV claiming that they are, in the famous words of the Casablanca inspector, “shocked, shocked” to discover the conditions the dogs are in. The sheriff said on air, when talking about the dogs that were removed and had to be euthanized this week, that “up to this point” the dogs being kept by Ms. Thompson were “never in this condition.”
An organization called Homeward Trails from Northern Virginia has worked valiantly to take animals out of the circumstances that they were in at the Pet Rescue Foundation. They have taken a very large number over the years – many hundreds of them. The Richmond SPCA was asked on a number of occasions to take animals from this situation as well. This request has always been a very difficult one for us to respond to because, while we want very much to help the dogs that are there, we also do not want to simply remove dogs only to allow more to be acquired and, in turn, subjected to the same unacceptable conditions. Each of the several times that we have agreed to take dogs from Pet Rescue Foundation, we have done so based on assurances that Ms. Thompson would not acquire more. Each time that has not proved to be true. Many of the animals we have taken from this situation in the past (and this has been as recently as late 2012) have needed, and received from us, extensive veterinary medical care for serious conditions that appear to have existed for a long time.
When the Commonwealth’s Attorney did not become involved in prosecuting Ms. Thompson several years ago, the group of deeply concerned people did so on their own. Despite the lack of assistance by the County, they put on persuasive evidence to the Judge, and Ms. Thompson was convicted in 2010 on six counts of animal neglect. Once that happened, her “rescue” operation could no longer be considered to be a rescue or releasing agency in Virginia and could no longer legally solicit donations as such. Nonetheless, despite the convictions, Goochland County took no action whatsoever to limit or address the number of animals she was still keeping on her property. It appears clear that nothing would have happened now if it were not for the fire and Ms. Thompson’s ensuing pleas for donations that resulted in pressure again from concerned members of the animal welfare community for Goochland to act.
Now, she has been charged criminally again. This time, the Goochland Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office is participating apparently. Goochland is claiming that their animal control agency has conducted an investigation. To say that this action on the part of the county is long overdue would be to wallow in understatement. The Richmond SPCA stands ready, assuming that a court order to remove the dogs is issued as it should be, to save the lives of dogs that need us in this situation and to provide them with the veterinary and other care that they need. What we ask is that we be assured, really assured, that the county will put an end to any more such misery on this site.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.