Disturbing, Complicated Developments in Shelter "Dognapping" Story

 |  Jan 22nd 2010  |   11 Contributions


Booking photo of Ashli Thomas

The dogs who were allegedly dognapped from a Tennessee shelter (see our story from two days ago) are still missing. But investigators are now saying that the break-in report was false, according to an article in the Johnson City Press.

Worse yet, animal welfare officials say the dogs who remained in the shelter were found to be living in neglectful conditions.

Miss (Ashli) Thomas admitted that she made the story up because she had left the dogs unattended and had not been caring for the dogs properly, Investigator Bret Richardson said in a news release.

Thomas, 24, is the niece of one of the shelter's founders, Brad and Tammara Josselyn. She has been arrested on charges of filing a false police report. Thomas and the Josselyns were also cited on eight counts of animal cruelty. The newspaper reports that investigators did not say how the cruelty had occurred.

Police say they discovered the alleged neglect when they went to the Canine Hope Rescue to investigate the alleged burglary. They called in the Washington County/Johnson City Animal Control Center. Animal control officers seized the remaining 20 dogs.

It was not only coat neglect but starvation (and) not maintaining the premises, Debbie Dobbs, director of the animal control, told the newspaper. There were filthy conditions."

So here are these dogs, many of whom are purported to be suffering from medical maladies, including one who had been thrown off a bridge, one who is blind, and one who has three legs.

The thought of these sick and injured dogs being dognapped was bad enough.

But when we have a glimpse into what their life at the shelter may have been like, it becomes that much worse.

But even now, the situation may not be not as black-and-white as it appears, with the shelter owners being uncaring, neglectful, and possibly abusive. It's difficult to know what to believe in this case, and easy to jump on the abuse-and-neglect bandwagon. And maybe that's the case. But there may be a large grey area. Here is a statement Tammara Josselyn posted on the shelter's website:

Since the information about the stolen dogs has been so successfully reposted to distribute the information, I have chosen to try and redo that effort once more.

There are misinformed emails and posts circulating and I would like to clarify some information.

On Thursday, the person who made the report of the robbery and attack was arrested for filing a false police report. There was a robbery, however there was no attack and she did not see anyone "taking" the dogs. The false report is not about the dogs missing, but is in relation to her report of having been confronted and attacked. When she discovered the robbery the dogs were gone and there was no one there except her.

In addition to the false report other charges were made against her, myself and my husband. Out of the many dogs in our care there were three that were very thin. Animal Control chose to make charges due to the condition of the area at the time of the report and the three thin dogs. This resulted in 8 counts against us. All rescues at our facility were removed and we fully released them to Animal Control knowing that they would spend less time there if we did.We have cooperated thoroughly with Animal Control to assure the best for those taken.

I want to be honest with the rescue and dog loving community so that the focus of this situation can go away from the fact there was a false report about seeing someone and being attacked and back to the fact that there are 13 very sweet and trusting dogs that are out there and we do not know where. They NEED TO BE FOUND.

There are 10 Dobermans, a female black labrador, and a min pin. All are friendly and approachable. All need the help of everyone to still get out the word.

We have had calls of someone seeing 2 friendly Dobermans in the Towne Acres area of Johnson City, 2 more in the highway area of Johnson City to Elizabethton, as well as a small black dog with another small dog being seen in Johnson City. Also that they could be being held in the Jonesborough, TNarea. It is important that if any Dobermans, a lab or min pin or medium shepherd mix are seen that a call is made immediately to the Johnson City Animal Shelter so they can look for them. If you feel you can approach them, please leash them or confine them to an area until the authorities get there.

While reports of these dogs are being made in the area, they may not be the dogs that are missing. There is still the chance that they have been removed from the area. So if you are outside of the East TN area, please keep looking for them.

We are deeply sorry that this situation has occurred. We understand the questions, frustration and misunderstanding due to the false report, but the fact remains that the dogs are missing.

My husband and I have dedicated much of our hearts and ourselves over many years to the dog community and rescue community, we have successfully placed many wonderful dogs in very loving homes, helped secure placement of dogs on death row, connected people to one another in order to help more, and educated the public about rescues and dogs in need. We have referred, helped, cared for, transported, and rescued more dogs than we can count. Please judge us by the experiences of those years, our work with you in those experiences, and know that we are saddened that the report has slowed the effort that was in progress to find the dogs. Please keep looking, keep posting for their return to safety.

We appreciate your continued cooperation in the search for these dogs.

If you see them please contact the Johnson City Animal Shelter at 423 926 8769 immediately, give them specific information about where the dogs are or have been seen.

If you have any information about the theft of the dogs please contact the Johnson City Police Department at 423 434 6168 or Crimestoppers at 423 434 6158.

There's still a great deal we don't know.

But the bottom line is that the animals from the shelter are now being fed and cared for, for the time being. And that there are apparently a dozen or so dogs out there who greatly need to be found.

Here's a slideshow, posted on the Canine Hope Rescue's website, of the missing dogs. They look fine in these photos. Some appear positively pampered, and Dazzle, the three-legged Doberman Pinscher, looks nothing short of regal.

Booking photo of Ashli Thomas
Booking photo of Ashli Thomas
Booking photo of Ashli Thomas

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