WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED? ORIGINAL POST FROM 7/9/10 AND 5/16/13







This is me today, a more relaxed and confident person. How I survived the numerous tragedies of 2009, I will never know. Woody Allen once said, "The heart is a very resilient little muscle." This is indeed true.

As some of you may know, I went through a horrible ordeal in 2009. Some of the details I disclosed to my friends on Facebook as they were happening, but not all of them. I just could not bring myself to recreate the entire story on virtual paper, because it would have been like living through it all over again. I am now ready to tell this story, and I thank God that I kept a full journal at the time; there are images and events that I would have been happy to forget.


HOW IT ALL BEGAN ~ LOGAN NEILL'S BREACH OF ETHICS

On 9/9/09, Holly Cara Price, a journalist of some note and Facebook friend, published an article about me in the Huffington Post. She was trying to help get me some publicity so that our sanctuary might receive some worthwhile attention. She used my carer in the music business as an angle for the story, and it was a very significant piece. I remember feeling quite excited about it.

You see, up until the middle of 2008, I had a 6-figure income as Guardian and caregiver for my aunt.
Everything I made was invested in the animals in one way or another. Fencing, cages, bird toys, food, Vets, grooming, and employees...you name it, it went to them. After my aunt passed in April, I was still able to raise significant amounts of money by selling off my arsenal of guitars and drums that I had collected over the years. I also started the Our Animal Haus web site in conjunction with my music page, and was able to begin accepting donations from fans who wanted to help out. It was during this time that I also incorporated, and began to take steps towards becoming a 501(c)3. The paperwork was daunting, so I figured that approaching people publicly, reaching out to them through the media, would be a great way to begin to build some bridges.

Enter Mr. Logan Neill (now deceased), an amateur musician himself, who covered Arts and Entertainment for the Hernando Times, a section of The St Pete Times. Neill called me before noon on 9/10 in response to the Huff Post article, and wanted to do a piece on Our Animal Haus. He seemed in a hurry to write it, and insisted upon coming to see me as soon as possible.

I told him over the phone that my lawn was very overgrown because we were short on help, and that our handyman who used to cut the lawn had been fired. We had found out that he was an ex-con and drug addict, whom we believed he had stolen our utility trailer in retaliation for being let go. I had preferred that he wait until we could find someone to mow the lawn. 


Neill asked me for the handyman's name, because he said he wanted to check up on him. I said I would appreciate him being left out of it. I should have found this alone to be odd and strangely inappropriate. Anyway, he pushed to see us that day, as he said that he had a space for our story in the weekend paper. I reluctantly complied as we needed some local publicity. (My hair was still wet in the photos he took, as I barely had time to take a shower.) He showed up at my gate 1 1/2 hours after hanging up the phone. The biggest mistake I have ever made in my life was to let him in.

When he came onto the property, which was a very large partially wooded 12+ acre parcel, we took him to the barn which can be seen in the photos on this web site, although the grass was much higher at this time. He had a photographer with him, and he took some photos of my horses, and my son. He passed 4 dog runs and the cattery to get to the barn, but never went inside any of them. I showed him my lanai which had a huge atrium over it that had been shredded by the cats when I had used that area for a few of them last year. The screens had been demolished and now hung flapping in the wind, The photographer took pictures of this, until I asked him not to. My instinct would later prove right when I thought not to trust this man.

Mr. Neill did not seem to have any prepared questions, and wrote very little down. He seemed to be more fascinated by the Huff Post article citing my comparisons to Springsteen, and he had difficulty staying on topic. This was not a professional interview; I had so many of them in my career that I could tell the tire-kickers from the journalists by then, but I still humored Mr. Neill, because we needed the exposure.

At the end of the interview, as we all sat outside at the picnic table drinking the ice water my husband had brought out from the kitchen, I gave him the name of one of the local Animal Control Officers, Patrick Pace (now a criminal), who had been helpful to us in the past. I figured that Patrick might enjoy reading his name in the paper. At this point I truly believed that Animal Control (whom I will now refer to as "AC") was a friend to us. That was my second mistake, and a very crucial one.

When the article did not come out, I was worried, but I figured it had just been bumped because it was the weekend after 9/11. Little did I know what was truly in store for me.

Up until 9/16, my relationship with AC had been a very friendly one, with no problems what so ever. We had one recurring complaint made by an employee who had been fired in December of '08, and one complaint arising from a post for donations on Facebook, believe it or not. It had been made by a Vet who saw the post as a result of a cross-post by a friend. She was out of state, and did not know me at all.

Animal Control had been at my property each time, and had found nothing wrong. Patrick Pace had even said that when he left a not at the gate, calling would suffice, merely as a formality. When we did let him on the property in August, he showed up with a printed out version of part of my Facebook post, as well as the email from the Vet. She had forwarded the post to them. Scrawled at the top of the page, was a notation by Liana Teague saying that perhaps it was just another disgruntled employee.

It was on this visit, that Pace had asked us how our financial situation was, if we needed help, and if we were networked at all with other rescues. I told him that I was thinking of moving everything to my mother's property because it was 10 acres of free and clear land, with 2 mobile homes on it and a barn with also a workhouse. I was going to be doing the Huffington Post interview with the hope that perhaps it would yield a backer who could maybe even purchase my current property, or at least finance the moving of all the fencing over. There was close to $100,000 worth of chain link fencing, generators, and corral fencing as well as the $35,000 cattery that would have to be moved. 


Pace was very kind and sympathetic. We felt that we knew him by now, and could confide in him. He offered to help us to obtain free food, and commented that we were a "good rescue". Pace called me the next day and left a message on my voice mail with the name of a local charity called "DayStar" that was located on Hilltell Road, saying that maybe they could help us. He also gave us the name of a woman who worked at the local Humane Society who was in charge of giving out free bags of dog food. Her name was Corey, and he said I could reach her on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. He said he told her that we were a good rescue.

I did call Corey about this, but the place to get the vouchers, St Anthony, was out of our jurisdiction. Unfortunately, she said that the bags had to be gotten by going through this procedure.

I drove to DayStar, and they told me that I would only be able to get one bag at a time. I don't recall if they gave me the name of another place where I could get the vouchers that would have been within our jurisdiction, but at that point, only being able to get one bag of dog food at a time was close to being no help at all...but I did try, a fact that was later ignored.


JOHN TOSSONA ~ THE HUMAN WRECKING BALL


On 9/16, when I was visited by AC, it was the first time I met Officer Tossona. He had been back on his job after a year's absence for only 10 minutes when he was handed our file by Patrick Pace, who now had been promoted to supervisor. He was told to check out Logan Neill's complaint.

Although Mr Neill would say when I called him that he did not make a complaint, it was very apparent that he had. He was lying. According to Patrick Pace whom I also phoned on 9/16, Mr. Neill told Animal Control that the place was messy, and there were feces around. This was a complete piece of fiction, as he had only been at the barn and the corrals where the horses were, and it was immaculate. We had a worker just for the horses who maintained everything, and she had just left, not wanting to be photographed for the newspaper. His remarks, according to Pace, were meant to encourage them to take some sort of action against me. When I then confronted Mr. Neill as to why he would involve himself in such a fashion, his reply was that he was "skeptical". Apparently if he could not investigate my handyman, he was going to investigate me.


Tossona called at 11:30, from outside our front gate, and asked to be let in. He gave me only minutes to dress. I was in my house dress which if no one is coming, I usually wear all day! Anyway, we both let him in, not aware of the fact that we did not have to if he didn't have a warrant. I was to learn this later from an animal welfare group...but it was like shutting the door after the house had been robbed.

Tossona was not at all friendly. He walked everywhere, and examined everything. His attitude was condemning and dark, and he took pictures of everything.* The only issue he had was with the bird cages not having been cleaned, and I told him that we had lost our employee, the nephew of the woman who cared for our horses, because he had gone back to school. We were looking to hire someone else. He asked about the cyst on our donkey's leg, and we told him that our Vet had said not to worry about it because it was harmless sebaceous cyst. The Vet had seen the donkey the day he had arrived from another rescue. I gave Tossona the Vet's business card if he had any questions about the donkey or the horses.

Tossona, along with Pace and another Officer named D'Arco, returned the next day, 9/17, and they counted all of the animals. This had not been done before. I was next door at my mother's house because the phone company was coming to fix her phone line, and I wanted to make sure she heard the door to let them in. IT WAS ON THIS DAY THAT TOSSONA GOT MY HUSBAND TO SIGN A DOCUMENT THAT WAS MADE OUT TO ME, AND ONLY ME, SAYING THAT I PERSONALLY AGREE TO ALLOW AC TO MAKE RANDOM INSPECTIONS AND THAT BASIC CARE WOULD BE PROVIDED FOR THE ANIMALS, AMONG OTHER THINGS. MY HUSBAND SIGNED IT BELIEVING IT WAS FOR HIS BENEFIT. HE WAS TOLD THAT IF HE DID NOT SIGN IT, THEY WOULD TAKE AWAY THE ANIMALS. ENGLISH IS NOT HIS FIRST LANGUAGE,
AND HE WAS VERY STRESSED OUT AT THIS POINT. TOSSONA, ACTING AS NOTARY BY LAW HAD TO MAKE SURE THAT HE UNDERSTOOD WHAT HE WAS SIGNING. HE CLEARLY HAD A CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACTING AS BOTH A NOTARY AND AN AC OFFICER, AND MY HUSBAND WAS COERCED INTO SIGNING THIS PAPER. NOWHERE IN THIS "CONTRACT" DID HIS NAME APPEAR. TOSSONA WROTE IT IN AT THE BOTTOM. NEVER DID MY HUSBAND SIGN A NOTARY LOG BOOK, NOR WAS THE DOCUMENT NOTARIZED IN FRONT OF HIM AS IS REQUIRED FOR NOTARIES TO DO. THE DOCUMENT SAID THAT BY CAROLYNE MAS SIGNING IT, SHE IS AGREEING TO THESE TERMS. HOW IT WAS IN ANY WAY LEGAL FOR HIM TO SIGN THIS DOCUMENT IS BEYOND ME AS HE DOES NOT AND NEVER DID HAVE POWER OF ATTORNEY OVER ME.
Here is a copy of the same document that my husband was told to sign. You can see where Tossona wrote in my husband's name, calling him "Ernesto" instead of "Esteban". I truly think that the only reason why I have this document in the first place, is because he made the mistake with my husband's name. I do recall seeing the signed copy of this at on October 16th which was used as the basis for the seizure of Ginger, and I remember questioning its validity since I had not signed it. It is clearly stating that by signing I have read and agree to its demands...when not only did I never see it, but it is then signed by someone else! No Notary I know of would ever agree to notarize something I have never signed.
Here is the notarized copy which I just received today, 5/7/12, from the County Attorney's Office. They were kind enough to email me a copy. In the FL rule for Notaries, "A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the notary public has a financial interest in or is a party to the underlying transaction; however, a notary public who is an employee may notarize a signature for his or her employer, and this employment does not constitute a financial interest in the transaction nor make the notary a party to the transaction.
This paper gave this man what he perceived was the right to bully and intimidate me by coming on my property, barking complaints about any animal at whim, knowing we were up to our necks with police in and out of our homes, deliberately overwhelmed and broken...and when we hadn't called a Vet in 1 or 2 days on the imaginary and fictitious complaint, that animal would be taken as in the case of Sly....and there was nothing we could do about it.
 This was an abuse of power while his boss was on vacation...and by notarizing this document, he gave himself permission. He intimidated my husband into signing it with the use of lies and threats, and without honestly, fully explaining the document a way in which he would understand. Who in their right mind would sign such a document to screw themselves over in the first place?  He took full advantage of the fact that I wasn't there.
So...I would say he was a party to the underlying transaction...the eventual seizure and sale of my animals, which I believe was the goal of this document...if the word party is to mean a "person having a direct interest in a legal matter, transaction or proceeding", which is the legal definition according to the NY State Law Library Glossary of Legal Terms.

On this day, AC also brought us some free hay from County Commissioner Adkins' barn.

The following day, 9/18, a subdued Tossona arrived at around 11:30, and handed me a copy of the citation he had filed. He told me that Pace had wanted him not to file anything, but to give us a couple of weeks to get everything together, but it was too late - Tossona had already filed paperwork, putting everything on a rapid time line. His issues were with the lawn, the bird cages, and the kennels in the garage which contained quarantined cats from a rescue in Georgia...they had to be unstacked. This would be the first time these kennels being stacked would ever be mentioned, and they had been in full view for Pace to see on his last visit. The horses' hooves also needed to be done by a farrier, which was always done anyway. We also had to have proof of vaccination for all of the dogs and cats. We had one week to address most of these things, however, he also said that there would be no problem if it was perceived that we were making an effort. He also gave me a printed article about a rescue named "Caring Fields", a place that may be able to take some of the cats, perhaps the quarantined ones.

I called "Caring Fields", and spoke with a woman named Pam. She told me that they had no room for any animals at all, as things were the worst they had ever seen with the amount of pets being abandoned. The housing bubble had recently burst, and Florida was hit very badly. People were losing their homes right and left. Pam was kind enough to give me some suggestions on how I could turn part of my mother's property into an outdoor cattery, which could be done quite cheaply with a mesh material she told me I could purchase online. She even offered to help me when I was ready to start building it. After we hung up, I called my fence guy Ray, who had done tens of thousands of dollars worth of fencing for me over the years, and he said he would do it for cost, as long as I provided the mesh and someone who could help him put it up. I quickly called Tossona, and told him about all of this, figuring that he would be pleased. The fact that I did this, was never mentioned in my defense.

The days leading to AC's visit on 9/25 were very busy, and we managed to do everything on the list, including getting our backer to fund all of the vaccines. The Vet came out early in the morning, with a whole crew of people to do grooming and give shots. It was videotaped at the backer's request. AC came out later, Pace, Tossona, and Liana Teague. They were extremely pleased as the place was spotless, and we told them that the farrier appointment was on 10/02. We also said that we had hired a full-time live in employee who was arriving on 10/27. We took this group photo (minus Tossona), after they were done, and I called my backer to deliver the great news. We had passed everything with flying colors.



They said that they would be back in 2 weeks, but did not come. Three weeks later, they did.

On 10/16 at around 11 AM, AC arrived for a surprise visit that supposedly my husband had agreed to upon signing that paper on 9/17. They had let themselves in the gate. My husband met Pace, Tossona, and a new woman, a trainee, in the garage. Pace said that they came to do an inspection, and asked him if he was okay with that, giving the indication that no was somehow an option. Tossona then reminded my husband that he had signed that paper, but according to my husband's recollection, Pace still gave the option to say no, but he wanted to check with his supervisor. My husband then went back inside briefly to continue working. AC knocked on the door, and Pace said that Teague had said that they didn't have to do the inspection. My husband let them look anyway (?) thinking that it was harmless to cooperate. Their inspection did not include the inside of the house, as it had on 9/16. My husband was inside the house, working, as they looked around. They knocked on the door again, saying that they were done. They made no suggestions, and did not mention any improvements.; they just left.

They came back about 1 1/2 hours later. This time, they came to pick up Ginger, our elderly mare. My husband came running over to tell me.

I had been on my way to cash a check so that we could go to the feed store with our new employee. It was Friday, close to 3:30 - 4:00 PM. I immediately drove next door with our new employee, Nicholas. I had a brief thought to take the video camera with us, but on the way we discovered that the battery was dead.

When I arrived on the property, Tossona was there with his trainee. At first I was very friendly. I said to Tossona that if he perceived that there was any problem with the mare, why couldn't we just call out Vet to come on over and look at her. He asked if I could pay for that, and I said, of course.

Ginger was always thin, because she was old. She had been brought to us in 2007 in worse shape, and had been seen by Dr. Dillard on numerous occasions. Her condition had improved since being brought to us, but she was old, and never would be much heavier because she could not put that kind of weight/body fat on at her age. She was always put out to graze the pasture area of the property all day because of this, in addition to her feed, beet pulp, and hay.

I called Dr. Dillard, and left a message using our employee's (the one who cared for the horses) cell phone. I then asked Tossona for the paperwork which allowed him to be on my property without my consent in the first place. It was at this point that he became angry, and decided not to allow the Vet to come after all. He then called for sheriff's backup, as well as transport for the horse. I was now being treated as a hostile person because I wanted to see documentation that allowed them to be on my property. I remained calm, and told him that I did not give him consent to take my horse, and until I could see some paperwork allowing them to be there, they were trespassing.

It was at this point that I recall Tossona showing me the paper that my husband had signed. I must have mentioned something about it being or having to be notarized, because I remember telling me that he was a Notary. I had read the paper, because he had left the copy pictured above at my house on 9/17. I could not understand how it could be valid, as I had not signed it. I also told him that I was sole owner of the property. He said that this did not matter. By now he had begun to treat me with complete hatred.

The police arrived, and I heard Tossona talking to them. I heard him tell them that we had no money. Money, or my perceived lack of it, had been an issue with him from the beginning. Between my house which was in foreclosure, and the by then famous Facebook post requesting donations, he had formed an opinion of me. My mortgage had been close to $5000 a month, and I had lost all $300,000 of equity on my home during the Florida housing crash. This is why I was looking to relocate the sanctuary next door, to my Mom's.

The police approached me, and became irritated when I would not engage with them. I told them that they were trespassing, and that as long as no one could produce paperwork saying that AC had the right to be on my property (I was the sole property owner, the only person on the title), then anyone coming at their request was also trespassing. Bear in mind that at this point, I had no knowledge of AC having been on the property that morning.

My employee, Nicholas, who knew a bit about the law, told me to ask to see all of the policemen's badges, and said that I should ask them for their business cards as well. If they didn't have them, then they are not in full uniform. One of the officers took this very personally, and asked Nicholas what his name was, to which he replied, "I am a private citizen, I don't have to tell you that, but you, however, are required to identify yourselves." This did not sit well with any of them...and they would develop an indignant attitude towards me from this point on.

It was at this time that another sheriff arrived, along with the horse trailer, and the son of the County Commissioner who was driving the horse trailer. Pace also showed up on the scene and showed this particular sheriff some paperwork. I was assuming at this point that it was a paper stating that they were indeed allowed to be on my property, after all, it was what I had been asking for, but it was not; it was a court order allowing them to take Ginger. I was informed smugly by the chubbier of the 2 policemen, that it did not matter whether or not I give my consent anymore, that if the cops think that an animal is in distress, they can do whatever they want. The papers, and this was 6 o'clock on a Friday, were a signed order by a judge named Kurt Hitzemann, to remove my mare.

Link to this document


This new document was obviously was intended to replace the Order of Care from 9/17, which had not been signed by me. To me, this is more or less an admission that the Order of Care from 9/17 was indeed a worthless piece of paper.

Ginger fought them as they forced her to get on the trailer, and furiously kicked the walls once she was inside. I will never forget as long as I live, the look in her eyes as they seized her forcibly. That look said, "Why?" It was horrible.

Tossona was extremely hostile to me at this point, as were the police, even though I had never raised my voice and had only asked for paperwork very politely.

Later that evening, my backer called me, because he had received an email from AC containing photos that were taken by Tossona that morning They were of Ginger, Sly, and an empty food trough (that is no longer used) as well as an empty bucket (which we also no longer use - we had an automated watering system installed a while back). These photos were meant to be incriminating, and I believe were meant to turn my backer away from me. I quickly sent the backer my own photos of filled food bins, water buckets, and hay.

The photos of the horse were taken in such a way that was a gross misrepresentation of the horses' condition. Ginger was elderly, and granted, thin, but Sly was not thin at all; neither were any of the other horses, for that matter. I paid an employee $12 an hour to feed them twice a day. She also kept a calendar of what she did each day. In September, Sly had a gash over his eye which she had treated with salve. All of this is on the calendar. Tossona had remarked about it back then, but by now it was gone...not even a scar was left. Many rescues treat minor injuries like this one themselves, and they do not always require a Vet visit. I believe that this would remain an issue with Tossona, long after the wound had healed.

That evening I also called Dr. Pinero, who had given the cats and dogs all of the vaccines on the 25th, and she said that she hated AC, and added they would most likely put Ginger down..."they work that way". She had warned me not to try and be friendly with them from the beginning, something that another rescue had tried to explain to my backer when he finally entered the picture, and would try to smooth things over with them by being open. Who knew? I was always, like many others, under the mistaken impression that AC is there to help you.

It gets much worse.
                 

THE WARRANTLESS INVASION AND SEIZURE OF MY SON

Monday 10/19, two policemen in dark uniforms hopped the fence on my property at 24419 Lanark Road looking for my son, because there had been an anonymous complaint that a child was being kept that no one sees, and there were diseased animals and no one had any money to care for anyone. My husband said that there was no child there, and he then asked them politely to leave. They did so. My husband never saw these particular men again.

These are notes I took at the time regarding that conversation:

My husband: "Sirs, I am not obligated to answer any of your questions and there is no child here."

One of the officers: "We know what happened over the weekend. Threats were made [against an officer on 10/16] and we received a memo. We don't know anything about it, we didn't even work that shift.
We are only here to help the lady from DCFS to see the child."

My husband: "There is no child here. Would you please be so kind as to leave."

My husband came over after this incident.

Shortly after, Animal Control arrived with a sheriff (plus 2 deputies) at my mother's house, asking for my husband. The sheriff asked if I was his mother (!). Teddy came to the door. I told him to let them go and have a look, feeling very intimidated by the previous Friday's actions. My employee went with them. 


As they were walking over he asked them for ID, to which the sheriff replied, "I'm the sheriff here, and these are my deputies, and they don't have to give you ID, but here is my ID. They have nothing to say to you. My deputies told me about you, that you were causing trouble [on Friday]."

It was also on this visit that Tossona said in a flippant manner that he saw Sly...the blind horse...limping...this is patently false, but he was planting a seed.

On this visit, AC went directly to the refrigerator in the garage...they said they had a report of animals being kept in a freezer. Please bear in mind that there was no warrant in their possession, and neither the Order of Care from 9/17 nor The Order of Care from 10/16 allowed them to do this...and we were not breaking any law! Even the ASPCA recommends that when an animal dies, you should place it in the freezer until it can be properly buried.

The sheriff actually let them only open the small freezer compartment of the 24 cubic inch refrigerator, but stopped them from continuing their search of the other freezers in the garage. The others were all empty, mind you, as we used to use them for bulk food deliveries from Rich Foods and Direct USA when my aunt was alive...if you joined you got a free freezer.

It was at that point that the sheriff stopped them from searching any further, and called judge Hitzemann to ask him what to do; he would not allow it either. (One would think during this case that the judge was on call or something.) The damage was done, though, as in the top compartment of the small fridge, there were several animals found that we had been wanting to bury until we knew that we had someplace where we knew we would be living for a while...like at my mom's. There was the bodies of two feral cats, which had been killed by a dog who hopped the fence that week, and which our Vet knew about, a couple of sugar gliders, 2 parakeets, and a fish....whatever was in there was very small, and the way it would be depicted in the newspaper later would be as if we had there huge cadavers stored, giving people a specific impression.

I will say that you can ask any breeder or rescue, and they will tell you that it is not an uncommon practice to have several animals in a freezer when you are dealing with so many animals on a daily basis.


The refrigerator had been in our kitchen when we moved in, but it was replaced as it was too small. We kept in the garage for medications and things pertaining to animals. Nicholas (whom we hired to work full time in exchange for room and board) had already buried my older cat who had just died, and whom Dr. Pinero had seen a few days earlier and treated..we were just about to bury the others at my mother's property next door because we knew that we would end up there, and we wanted a grave we could visit. I was surprised that this would become an incriminating issue, as we were breaking no law that we were aware of. **

My mother's house was very close to the end of the dead end street, and almost on the road as you can see in these photos. All day long, police cars went up and down the street, slowing down in front of the house. It was horrible. They were also sitting in front of the gate to 24419 Lanark, because my employee who fed our horse as well as my mother's horse said she had been stopped and questioned by an officer. He had asked about my son. She told him he was fine, maybe his hair was a little long, but fine. I remember feeling angry at her for adding the bit about the hair, because it was completely unnecessary. I felt that it was thoughtless of her to insert any negative images into the minds of people who were predators, and who were looking for reasons to find fault in anything that I did. This was the point at which the nightmare became palpable.

It was on that evening that I learned that Ginger had been euthanized. I was on the phone with my backer (James Robinson) when he received the call. At that point, he had been supporting my efforts to deal with AC as a liaison. He was noticeably shocked when he delivered this news to me. It was at this point, that AC stopped returning his calls and that an attorney (Ms. Erica Moore, since then accused of sexual harassment), became involved. I knew instinctively at this point that Ginger's death was going to be used to build a case against me, however far fetched it seemed to James.

That night, he sent me their Vet's assessment if Ginger. Oddly enough, it came from someone at Dr. Davenport's office, where my Vet, Dr. Dillard used to work...the same office that had Ginger's records still, with her DOB as 8/30/79. This Vet was trying to say that the horse was 18, and was so malnourished that she could not stand, so euthanization was recommended. Was that the same horse who fought AC as they tried to force her into a trailer on 10/16?

I called Dr.Dillard, and told him what happened. He was shocked. He said that you cannot always tell a horse's age by her teeth. He also said that as far as her care, we were square with him. He knew we took good care of her, and he had seen both Sly and Ginger when they had arrived on my property in August of 2007. They were at that time skin and bones, having actually been starved by their owner. Two of my former employees had known the previous owner, and had talked her into giving them to me. Ginger, was Sly's eyes. He has Uveitis which had gone untreated. He had at one point belonged to a sheriff in Pasco County. When she was injured in the line of duty, she had sold him. She had even visited Sly here, at our place.

Tuesday, 10/20, close to 12:30 PM, my husband called and said that the police...lots of them...were back, and I could hear them in the background being very forceful, and asking if he had any firearms...it sounded like Waco, to be honest. I knew something was wrong as the police had no warrant. I remembered what my backer had told me about videotaping everything, so I sent my employee Nicholas Powell, 27, over there with my video camera to tape everything.

I wouldn't know until later that the camera had been seized by an officer. I would not be able to pick it up until after Nicholas' case was closed, some weeks later. Thank God they were stupid enough to have left the memory card in! Nicholas' account of what happened can be read here.



The 20th of October was also my birthday. In the midst of this madness which I felt completely helpless in overcoming, I wanted to get away from everything for a minute...just to have a moment of peace, and the illusion of normalcy. I thought to go with my son to the beach.  While getting gas, I called home to check on my mother...and a policeman answered. I immediately hung up.
By this time my husband had given them my mother's phone number, and they had traced it to the house next door. For a moment I panicked, but then I realized that this was something that would only snowball if I decided to avoid it. I called back. This time my mother answered, and I asked her to hand the phone to the policeman. His voice was pleasant, calm, and he seemed nice enough. Looking back, I think that was why they sent him.

He said they were looking for my son. So many of these officers had seen me with my son on the porch of my mother's house, as the street in front had been swarming with police for 2 days. The house was very close to the road, and it was a dead end street. Some of the officers had even knocked on the door, and one had even questioned my employee...so it is still a mystery to me as to why they pretended not to know where we were. Even my driver's license had been updated with my mother's address, as I had been living there for a month.

The police officer, still seeming very kind and innocuous, told me that he just needed to see the boy, so I agreed to meet him in the paring lot of Tractor Supply, which was on the way to the beach. It did not seem like an emergency situation at this moment.

As I drove back down Cortez Blvd. in the direction of the beach, I saw a cop car enter the 4 lane road from the street that led to my house. He moved quickly in between cars. I knew instinctively that this was the man whom I had just spoken to...and I knew in this moment that he had tricked me.

When I arrived at the parking lot, I was met by 2 patrol cars, one with a man standing outside the car in a swat-team-like confrontational position, as if trouble was expected. I began to roll down the window to speak, when my vehicle was quickly approached by the officer whom I had spoken to on the phone, and a woman from DCFS. They opened the back door of my car and forcibly grabbed my son by his little arm, as if snatching him from the jaws of a monster. I never had a moment to speak. They told me to follow them to the courthouse. I am certain that snatching my son out of my car like that was completely illegal. ***

I had asked them to drive slowly as I did not know how to get to the courthouse from there, but their cars traveled swiftly through traffic, and I lost them after only seconds. At one point, I could not be certain at all where my son was, or even if they had lied to me.

When I got to the parking lot, I saw the police officer. As I walked towards him, he asked if I had any weapons. I made some sort of joke about the Sony eReader in my bag.

Our time at the courthouse was brief, and at one point I ran into Patrick Pace on the same floor where the courtroom was. I cannot explain the feeling I experienced by seeing him. I had the distinct feeling that everything that was happening was somehow connected.

On the journey back to my mother's house, my son was not allowed to ride with me. One disturbing fact in all of this, is that my son recalls being questioned repeatedly by the woman from the DCFS, both during the ride to the courthouse, and during the ride from the courthouse to my mother's house. He
was asked questions about whether or not my husband had touched his penis, or whether my husband had ever hit my mother.  Remember, neither my husband nor I had been accused of anything, but we were still be regarded by this woman as criminals. And what sort of impression was she leaving my son with?

It did not end there; back at the house, she pulled his pants down and shined a flashlight on his bare fanny. She didn't think I saw this, but I did. He had taken her down the steps to his room, to show her where he slept. He is still upset about this today.*****


She then did a full home inspection, which of course did not turn up any kind of violation. In fact, the gourmet food in my fridge impressed her. I belonged to a farmer's co-op, so the refrigerator was stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables.

The police were still next door at my house at this point. I had no clue what was going on there. The woman from DCFS asked about the events next door, and about the animals and the house. The same soft-spoken officer was still with her at this point, the one who had deceived me by luring me into his trap in the first place. They took the name and birthday of our employee Nicholas, as well as information (social security numbers, birth dates) of myself, my husband, and my mother.

It was nearly 6 PM when they left. I called home. My husband told me what happened earlier that day.

At around 12:30 PM, three men showed up at the garage door. They had again hopped the fence like the day before, despite the No Trespassing sign at the gate. This time there were 3 of them in green and white uniforms.

My husband once again told them that there was no child there, but this time they did not leave. It was at this time that my husband had called me. I could hear all the commotion in the background, as they were asking if he had weapons. It sounded out of control and extremely hostile.
I told my husband that they had to had a warrant to search the house, and he repeated this to them. They said that they did not have to have a warrant to look for a child. As he turned to go back into the house, they jumped him, slammed him against the wall and handcuffed him. The phone fell to the floor. They began to search my home without any kind of warrant. They went first to all of the freezers, which in my mind makes this connected to the freezer search the day before. They rummaged through everything in my home.****

At some point, the short fat cop asked my husband for the keys to the gate, but he refused. This officer then said that he didn't care, he would just drive through the gate. My husband does not remember if he was threatened at this particular point, but he did hand over the keys, which were, incidentally, never returned.

My husband remembers one of the cops playing the good cop, saying to him, "You don't have to worry, you can tell me anything, this isn't Communist Russia."

My husband heard and saw Nicholas being arrested, cuffed, and put into a patrol car, but they did their best to separate them from seeing each other. My husband wept uncontrollably from the stress as numerous officers repeatedly asking him where our son was. A well-dressed woman from DCFS began to interrogate my husband. He recalls there having been 2 men with her. They threatened him with the loss of parental rights, saying that "the judge was waiting to sign the papers". One of the men said that they could retrieve anything they wanted from my camera, even if it's erased. My husband told me later that he had seen them take the camera, on the grounds that it may have incriminating information.

Fast forward to that later that evening. It was at this time that my husband and I realized that Nick was nowhere to be found, and since he hadn't seen him be taken away, he couldn't be sure what happened. It was me that called the jail, and sure enough, he was there. He had been charged with obstruction of justice, and peacefully resisting arrest. According to Teddy, all he heard him say was, "I am a private citizen, and do not have to answer any of your questions."

On 10/21, I went to Nicholas' appearance in court. Before the proceedings began, I saw a bailiff outside the courtroom, and asked him if my employee was there. He asked if this was all connected to the paperwork from yesterday, same judge, and I said yes.

Shortly after I returned home, the police came, along with AC to my mother's house. The same officers as 10/16, and 10/20 ( 3 police cars), with an Affidavit for inspection warrant, as well as an inspection warrant with my mother's name on it. She had just woken up, and this was very upsetting for her as the police were at her home just the day before, and she was in her pajamas. Part of the warrant stated, "Carolyn Mas is the owner and caretaker of animals and has been neglecting said animals by failing to provide proper nutrition, medical care, and confining them in area without wholesome exchanges of air."

Affidavit for Inspection Warrants for BOTH mine and my mother's properties.

Inspection Warrants for BOTH mine and my mother's properties.


Officer Tossona took photos of my mother's animals, and they searched her entire property. At one point they returned to search the mobile home next door which was used for storage, but for which we had lost the keys. It contained things from my mother's huge house before she moved here, as well as things from my late Aunt. I told them they were welcome to look there, if they could find an open window to get in.

When they left, they told me that everything was in order, and they wished to go next door. I called my husband. They once again searched the entire house, and took the animals from the freezer. The also took a horse named Sly, whom Tossona had alleged was limping 2 days earlier. He did this because I had not called a Vet. I knew he had been setting me up, and often I wonder if this is why they kept me so busy...so he could say I never called a Vet, even though his claim that Sly had been limping was unfounded.

My husband, myself, and our employee of 1 1/2 years who is a horse expert and who works for one of our Vets who lives near by, had found nothing wrong with Sly on the evening of 10/19 after AC had left, and we had determined that there was no need to call a Vet. We had also felt that Tossona had been deliberately saying this to cause trouble. This ended up being true, as he was most certainly counting on us not calling a Vet which would then give him grounds to take the horse. They also took 7 cats, saying that they were in distress.

According to Anne Zessin, an NAIA member who was asked by the NAIA to obtain partial records of my case from AC, these cats were then vaccinated (for what?) by AC, and one subsequently died. The photo of this cat, an elderly cat named Chance whom they had made ill, appeared in the newspaper article written by Logan Neill on 10/28. The photo would be taken at AC, and not at my house as the article implied. The question raised by Anne was, if the cats were not healthy, then why were they vaccinated? It is not customary to vaccinate unhealthy cats as it can be deadly. There was also a receipt for the cost of these vaccinations ($350?), which of course, was at my cost.

Back to the events of 10/21. In a private conversation between AC Officer Pace and my husband, Pace recommend that we take photos before Friday (the fitness hearing) in our defense. To this day I do not understand why he said this, as he was to lie in court just 2 days later. On this day, Animal Control told my husband that their investigation was over.

On the 10/22, Logan Nell's article did come out...only it was a hit piece on Our Animal Haus, with my picture smack dab on the front page of the Hernando Times. There was also a picture of Ginger, but the caption said that the horse was an 18-year-old Paso Fino. We did indeed have a Paso, but he was a younger male gelding. So observant was Logan Neill, that he could not tell the difference between a gelding and a mare.


LET THE LIES BEGIN
~ THE FIRST HEARING


Documents filed on this day that can be viewed here:

ORDER FOLLOWING HEARING ON ORDER OF CARE

VERIFIED PETITION TO DETERMINE ANIMAL OWNER FITNESS

At the hearing on the 10/23, I asked for a continuance. I thought that I would be turning around at that point to go home, but Ms. Moore began to present evidence. Luckily, I had a briefcase full of photos and paperwork which I had printed the evening before. This included letters from my backer to AC, him to me, and to other people he was trying to get backing from. He was trying to get me under another 501(c)3, because it was quicker than to file myself. I also had around 50 photos of my property and my animals. I had financial statements from March 'till October. I had Vet records for all of the shots from the day that AC was there on 9/25. Perhaps most incriminating of all, I had the photo of AC, the Vet, her assistants, and us, all smiling on the afternoon of the 25th.

I tried my best to counter everything which they said, and I began to notice that they were fabricating a story around what they had done, to justify euthanizing the horse, to justify their extreme actions of the previous week. Liana Teague had been on vacation all that week...all of these things happened in her absence, and I feel that they needed to build a case out of lies in order to justify their actions, which were all mistakes.

Suddenly, they were claiming that I had a history of non-compliance with them...that I had refused to get the free food they had offered, that I had refused to unstack kennels in the garage repeatedly. If you recall, Tossona was the only one to ask us to do this on 9/16, and by their return visit on the 25th, it had been taken care of. Where are the photos that Tossona took on the 25th? They also stated that Logan Neill had complained to them about us.

I could not believe what I was hearing. I could also not believe that Logan Neill was there along with his photographer,
Will Vragovic, documenting all of this. He sat with AC beforehand, as well as afterward. Vragovic leaned over from across the aisle, only one or two  rows back, constantly snapping pictures. If I am not mistaken, photographers are no allowed in court unless they are not being disruptive. They are supposed to be discrete. This was anything but. It was like being raped.

I am not an attorney, so I was confused as to what I was supposed to do...I assumed you give the papers that prove your case to the other attorney, which I did, so that they can see that their client is wrong. I did give the pictures to Judge Hitzemann, including the one from the 25th. I also told the judge that I had the vet records for Ginger proving her birth date was
8/30/79 , and raised up the newspaper article for him to see, where Ginger could be seen grazing behind me, happily, standing perfectly strong and on her own. If the Vet AC hired had said that Ginger could barely stand, it must have been on THEIR watch, not mine. Somehow, I thought that all of this evidence would matter. None of it, including the Vet records with Ginger's birth date, would ever be acknowledged in subsequent paperwork, which would repeatedly say that the mare's age was in dispute. WHY?

Pace said that some of my cat's ears were flat from not being treated for mites. I explained that 2 of my cats had been operated on for hemotomas on their ears, which was a blood vessel problem and was the reason why their ears lay flat. Given the opportunity, I could supply the Vet records for this, too. I knocked down one accusation after the other, and I honestly thought that I was being listened to, and that my evidence would matter.

When I asked the judge why my mother was being included in this matter, her only crime being that she lived next door, his reply was, "Florida is next door to Georgia." What was that supposed to mean?

After about an hour of proceedings, I was given a continuance date for the following Thursday, and that was supposed to give me enough time to get an attorney. I also asked a woman with black coiffed hair who was sitting in the area next to the judge's bench, if I could get a transcription of the hearing, and she said that I could pay for one afterward. I remember from my employee's first appearance just 2 days earlier, that when the blue icon in front of the judge was on, the session is being recorded. I did not see this light on, but I trusted his assistant to know what she was talking about.

When I returned home, I called Dr. Pinero, as I thought I had done a good job presenting my evidence, and she jokingly said to me that maybe I should have been a lawyer. The conversation was lighthearted, and a welcomed moment of normalcy. I was feeling proud of myself; I had been controlled, organized, and articulate in the courtroom.

When I phoned the courthouse the following Monday, I couldn't find anyone who could tell me where to go and get a copy of the transcript. I didn't realize it was because there was none.

Tassoni and Pace stopped by to count the animals again that week, which day, I am not certain. Pace even joked with my husband that they'd probably end up being friends and exchanging Christmas cards. This was not funny to my husband...in fact, it was bizarre behavior, quite Sociopathic.

PERJURY AT THE SECOND HEARING

I tried to find an attorney quickly who would take this kind of case. I could not find one. So, when I appeared in court the following Thursday, 10/29, I was looked at as if I had made a choice not to have one. I began to see that I was being railroaded (and once again repeatedly photographed), as I heard Patrick Pace spout lie after lie about my supposed non-compliance. I began to see that no matter what evidence I was presenting, it was not going to change a thing. It was a done deal. Pace repeatedly lied under oath. He was now trying to say that I had been starving all of my animals. He said I only had 2 bags of dog food in the garage. I asked him how many he could fit in his car at one time. How did he know I was not going to have 10 bags tomorrow? He went on to say that my dogs were not socialized, and that they ran from him when he entered the dog runs.
This was so difficult to hear. I was shocked that he could so easily do this to me, and lie like this.

It was at this point that I actually asked him if he still wanted that Christmas card. He just bowed his head, as if he had shame.

Ms. Moore stated that I owed them over $5700 for almost a year-long investigation. She proposed that I be allowed to keep 10 birds. It was Liana Teague that would lean over and lower this amount to 2.

Ms. Moore even asked me if I was sure that my employee was feeding the horses. I replied, "Why would my employee single out 2 horses to starve, while the rest are fat?" They also then told me that me employee no longer worked for me, that they had called her. I was shocked.

On top of this, they presented a paper signed by the same Vet who had vaccinated the dogs and cats, stating the the cats that had been seized needed to be put down as the County could not pay for treating them. They said the cats all had feline herpes, and that it would cost them $100 per cat to treat. So...since they were now considered to be a burden, they needed to be killed. The same animals that had been beloved pets in my own home, had been seized so that they could become burdens of that County and subsequently killed. This was being better off? These were the same cats that had been seen by the same vet on the 25th and treated for skin issues; I felt as if they were trying to turn everyone against me. They were. They were removing any support network, any witness that would be on my side.

At the end of the hearing, Hitzemann said they he thought that I had not done anything deliberate, but had merely been overwhelmed, but still ordered the animals to be removed from our property...all except for a few. Afterwards, Ms. Moore came up to me, after what appeared to be a negotiation with AC, and said that I would be allowed to keep my son's pony, my pig, 2 cats, and 2 birds. She said that the rest would be sold to pay my debt to AC. I said, "Well, then I guess I will be getting back the difference." I was in total shock and it all seemed so absurd. If I was so evil, why was I being allowed to keep anyone? Moore said that I would be receiving some expedited documents containing the details of this deal, and I needed to sign and then return them. The animals were to be removed the following day.

I should mention at this point that NEITHER hearing had been recorded by a court reporter...which means that I could never prove that AC had perjured themselves in any future appeal. How is anyone supposed to file an appeal if the original hearing is not recorded in any way, and why aren't the Plaintiffs told of this before?

That evening, a supporter of our cause called, and then came over. She photographed all of the animals. Her photos are the ones that are seen on my page here. These are the only photos I have of many of our animals.


THE DAY OF DESTRUCTION

I could not sleep. It was the early morning of 10/30. I went over to the house at 7 AM to say goodbye to my animals. I picked up one cat to move him from the kitchen to then den. He purred at my touch. I will never forget this. He is now dead. At this point, after being treated like a criminal, I committed my only criminal act to date...I took a small conure that I have had since my birthday of 2001, put him in a carrier, and took him with me. I told my husband to tell them that he escaped out the food cup while he was feeding them, if they asked about the empty cage.

As I was leaving, I could see the horse trailers lining up outside my gate. The hit was to be at 9AM.

Sometime later, there was a knock at my door. I opened it, and saw several press people. I quickly closed the door. I heard them talking through the door. One of them said, "Is it true that AC is taking healthy animals? If this is so, we can help you." I opened the door.

There were at least 3 different media people there including Will Vragovic, Mr. Neill's photographer. He actually told me that Mr. Neill had not made a complaint, that he had been there...whatever that meant. He surely wasn't with Neill when he called them...but maybe he was.

I told my story to the camera, and the journalists seemed genuinely concerned and sympathetic. Especially one man whom I was told by my husband was from the Huffington Post, although no article that I know of ever came out in the Huffington Post.

Vrogovic was peeved because my husband had asked him to leave, and he thought that I owed him the right to take pictures of what was going on since I used one of his photos as evidence in court. I had not been aware that holding up a newspaper with a photo was any kind of copyright infringement, or that I indeed owed this guy anything, but I consented and let them all go over...because they were taking healthy animals and I wanted the world to see.

Vrogovic would later turn around and use those photos on an animal hoarding site. The photos included one of me talking to the journalists from my mother's front porch complete with her house number, one of my husband standing in the kitchen, and one of a smaller, thinner black and white cat we had...which I guess was supposed to be his attempt at portraying neglect.

I actually thought that my story might make it out there by speaking with other journalists, and somehow get through the seemingly impenetrable wall of Neill's yellow journalism. In fact, one of the journalists who said that he was from the Tampa Tribune, told my husband that Neill had violated journalistic ethics by complaining, and interfering. A journalist is not allowed to interfere unless there is an animal being beaten, or killed. Why he would never write something, anything about this is still a mystery to me. All of these journalists got me to open the door to them by promising to help, but none did.

Later on, maybe by 5 o'clock, my husband called. You could hear the birds screaming in the background, like they were being killed. It was horrible. He said that one of the birds had gotten out, and that they were having trouble getting him back in the cage, and that Pace had said, "I don't care if we get him or not." I told him to videotape it with the phone, but he could not get it to work as we never use this feature. The police still had my video camera.

I took my mother to the bank. On the way back, we passed the last load of birds...being transported in an open horse trailer, something that I would have been arrested for doing. According to my husband, they also used a pickup truck. I was horrified.

This was the last paper to be filed, and it was filed on November 4,  5 full days AFTER all the animals had been taken, and many had already been euthanized without a proper court order.

FINAL ORDER TO DETERMINE ANIMAL OWNER FITNESS                                 

THE PAINFUL AFTERMATH ~ WHEN WILL IT END?


It took me weeks to be able to go to the house. AC had taken all of my cages, even empty ones, and all of the bird toys. They had taken all of out available kennels to transport the dogs and cats. My husband cared for the remaining animals until I could summon the courage to go over to the house. Honestly, I don't know how he did it. He also had seen everyone be taken. He still has nightmares of this.

It was painful to see the remaining 2 birds all by themselves in the now empty bird room. They had witness all of the screaming and chaos, and surely it had affected them. I was happy to move them to my mother's house.

Two weeks later, I would see Patrick Pace accompanied by his thugs, operating on what is called a stale warrant, remove my mother's cow from her backyard.


We would eventually learn that all of our cats had been killed. This was devastating because some of them we had for 12 years, and they had a right to live out the rest of their lives in peace. The older dogs were killed, and the rest adopted for a fee at a public fair, and given vaccines again so that they could charge people for them. At this fair, which was advertised in the paper, we were mentioned as being the past abusive owners, and that these poor animals needed good homes as they had come from such a bad situation. I cannot tell you how hard it was to read this. I was also angered at how they could endanger my dog's health by lying about the vaccines, which would cause them to be vaccinated again and again. Their rabies vaccines had been good for 3 years. They chose to appear as if they had been heroes, over the actual welfare of my dogs.

The birds, horses, the donkey, and the cow were all sold at an online auction. I don't know what happened to the sugar gliders and ferrets. I heard later that the Prairie Dog was safe. Each of the buyers of the animals online, had to sign an agreement allowing random inspections, meaning that the animals could end up at AC again. AC made $7000, which if you remember they had said I owed them $5700 for their "investigation"...what happened to the rest of the money was never explained to me. I was never given the opportunity to pay this supposed bill in some other way. They had taken it upon themselves to seize perfectly healthy animals and sell them. Along with my animals, they took expensive bird cages and dog crates...all of which was illegal. The law did not matter in Hernando County.

A ray of hope finally made its way through the gloom the day I called Laurella Desborough (AFA, NAIA). I had found her name online and was somehow motivated to call her. She immediately sent two people out to interview us and look at the property; a woman named Mona, and a woman named Jean. What they found was a beautiful facility with huge dog runs, a large bird room with separate AC, and a first class barn with loads of cedar corral fencing...all empty now. Although there may have been some minor shortcomings, they easily could have been dealt with. The bottom line was that Our Animal Haus sanctuary should never have been completely destroyed they way it had been, with such callous disregard for the welfare of the animals. We finally had the support we had been looking for. Suddenly we were not alone.

Mona found me an attorney. Better late than never. Little did I know that the County wasn't yet finished with us.

It was at this time I learned about the hundreds of confiscations that occur throughout the US just like the one that happened to us. In fact, John Stossel did a piece for 20/20 in 2005 about these confiscations, entitled "Cruelty to Pet Owners". Any animals that are not deemed as being valuable to AC, are routinely euthanized, and the ones that can be sold for a handsome profit, are sold immediately before people can scramble to obtain legal help.

I was also introduced at this time to a woman named Anne, who conducts investigations of behalf of the  NAIA. On 11/19, she actually visited Hernando County AC, and obtained some of the records from my case. She found multiple issues with their story.

While touring the Animal Control facility on Oliver Street, she discovered that my animals, or what was left of them, were being kept in deplorable conditions; tall grass,  with rats under the food and water buckets for the horses and the cow (who had just been picked up just 2 weeks before from my mother's property, and not during the initial confiscation). The birds were being kept in partial darkness. They were all being fed finch food, even the large hookbills. The dogs that were left, instead of being in huge 75 x 40 outdoor dog runs at home, were being kept in small cement cells, with no fresh air...like prisoners. She could not understand how that could be seen as an improvement. When she asked about the abundance of horse manure and the hundreds of flies around the horses, the girl working there replied, "I'm only one person doing all of this." Hmmm...AC had accused us of being overwhelmed.

She immediately found Tossona to be a completely sinister character. Tossona told Anne that he routinely watched me on Facebook, as disapproved when he would find me online at 4 AM.  He gloated as he told her that my house was up for auction on the courtroom steps as they spoke, something she found to be unbelievably callous. She also wondered how he knew this. When she told me, I was sure he was just making it up...I mean, how could he know and not me?

Here is a link to that paperwork, oddly enough also signed on the 21st of October. Hmmm...one might easily ascertain that there was some sort of conspiracy going on against me, huh? (Note: That sale of November 19 would later be vacated on the 17 of June, 2010. The house would once again be sold on Hernando County courthouse steps, on the 5th of April, 2012. Nationstar would purchase the house for a second time, for the price of $100.)

Four months earlier, we had paid an attorney nearly $3000 to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy for us, which would have delayed the foreclosure long enough to buy us the time to set up the sanctuary on my mother's property. She was going to file the paperwork the minute the house appeared on the court docket, but somehow over the Thanksgiving holiday, she forgot to do this, and we had just been too overwhelmed to keep track of it ourselves.

On December 18th, just before Christmas, I received an email from Logan Neill.

Dear Ms. Mas:

Asst. State Attorney Jason Smith has informed me that two charges of criminal misdemeanor animal cruelty are being brought against you and your husband in regard to Our Animal Haus. As I have no current phone number for you, I am sending this message in the event that you may wish to respond publicly about the charges. You or you attorney may do so either by email or by phone. My direct line is (352) 848-1435. FYI: This story is for tomorrow's paper, so I'll need to hear from you by 4 p.m. today.

Thank you,
Logan Neill

I was shocked that Mr. Neill had managed to insert himself into my business to the extent of which he was privy to information like this. By sheer coincidence, I had been on the phone earlier that day with the attorney that Mona had spoken with on my behalf. I called him back in a state of panic. He said that he would make a phone call that would prevent us from being arrested, so that we could be served with a subpoena instead.

By Christmas, we were now not only forced to move immediately from our old house, but we were facing new and completely bogus charges, which had come completely out of nowhere. How could things have possibly be worse?

It was shortly after this, that I would learn from my attorney that AC was going to come after me for $27,000. This was supposed to be the bill for what it cost them to care for my animals from the time when they were picked up, until the time they were either killed or sold. This would eventually be thrown out of court because the limit on what can be filed for in lower court is $15,000. How neither Hitzman nor AC knew this is beyond me, but it certainly was thrilling to experience this small victory, and watch Liana Teague and Erica Moore flee the courtroom in utter defeat.

What ultimately made me leave Florida, was the last incident, when AC arrived at my mother's home for a surprise inspection in January of 2010. AC was allowed to do this even though my mother had never been involved in the proceedings...her name had been on the earlier search warrants merely because her property was next door to mine, and my attorney had tried to remove her name in a lower court with no success. In would later on be removed in an appeal filed in March of 2010. Because I was now living with her, she was forced to endure these visits as well, and subject her own dogs to inspections, photographs, and Nazi tactics.

On this day, they came with 2 sheriffs, one of who was the one I had asked for ID back on October 16th, and who had been pissed off because I was demanding my Constitutional rights. My husband immediately called our lawyer who heard the entire incident over the phone.

When my husband let them in, I was in the bathroom. The sheriff made me get out of the bathroom where I had been relieving myself, saying in a very thug-like manner that he thought he "heard something in there" and had to inspect. This was humiliating. When I emerged from the bathroom, he had a smirk on his face that said, "That'll teach you for demanding your Constitutional rights."

They searched every inch of the house, even going into my mother's bedroom where she had been laying in bed in her pajamas because they needed to see her cat. They made her get up so that they could search the covers. What is really odd looking back on these searches performed at my mother's house, is that not one time did they ever ask for proof of vaccinations for her dogs. Makes you think that their sole purpose was to harass, doesn't it?


It was on this visit that they Pace and Tossona left a plastic bottle with the ashes of the animals who had been murdered by them...exactly which animals, I will never know. The ashes were put inside of a bird food container, most likely this very container had been used to feed the birds that they had stolen from me.




Exactly which animals are these the ashes from? Certainly not from Ginger. So where did she end up? In a landfill? And since when does AC deliver the ashes of animals they have killed to your door?
Tossona made one subsequent visit where he attempted to shake my husband's hand, almost cornering him to do so. He then lay his hand on our son's head. That was it for me. After that day, I began to make arrangements for us to move out of state.

Sometime before leaving, I remember receiving a letter from DCFS saying that their investigation had been completed. I still did not know what we were being investigated for, as nothing wrong was ever found.
 

During the late afternoon of March 24th, my family and I crossed the border between Florida and Alabama for the last time. As the RV rumbled westward, I watched out the back window as the last menacing traces of Florida gave way to the graceful bend of I-10. We would sleep well that night, despite still being haunted by the faces of those who did not make the journey.

Goodbye, Florida, and good riddance.
On a sad note, my mother passed away some 8 months later. I feel badly that she died in a place that was so alien to her, but I am forever grateful for her making our move here possible. You see, she liquidated whatever money she had invested in her million dollar life insurance policy which would have made us financially secure for the rest of our lives, just to buy our safety. That was her parting gift to us. I never thought that being safe would come at so high a price.

The charges against my husband and I were dropped in the spring of 2010, and the $29,622.23 bill miraculously disappeared as well...but this would not be the end of it.



Update 5/16/13 On 5/09/13, I made a comment online in the comments section underneath an article concerning Hernando County Animal Control, that appeared in Hernando Today. I posted 2 links from this page including the link to my story. In my comment, I wrote that the entire county was corrupt, and that they routinely hire people who have no compassion and who are only there to follow orders. Apparently this was enough to piss someone off.

On Tuesday, 5/14/13, at around 4:30 PM, a Sheriff's car appeared at my gate. The deputy stated that he was responding to an anonymous complaint and needed to perform a welfare check on both my son and my animals. The complaint stated there there were 60 cats and 50 dogs, and that there were feces on both the front and back porches which posed a danger to my son's health. It had been made on the 9th, the same day my comment had been posted on Hernando Today. They knew my son by name.

The deputy had originally come by after the complaint had been made online at the sheriff's tip site, but we had not been at home.

Of course, nothing even close to that number of animals was found on my property by the deputy, nor were any feces found on the porches, which made him right away realize that the call was l a hoax of some sort. In retrospect, I am grateful for his understanding. At the time, however, I was completely freaked out as his visit dredged up every single feeling of peril that I had experienced in 2009 all in the blink of an eye. I suppose that this was the entire reason why the complaint had been made in the first place; to put me in my place and destroy any feelings of safety that myself and my family may have foolishly been enjoying for the past 3 years.

The next day I noticed that my comment had been removed from Hernando Today. When I phoned them I was told by the editor that if he had removed my comment, there would still be a copy of it in the system, it would just be hidden from public view....but it was not there at all.

In the analytics for my blog, I could clearly see that my page had received a good number of hits on the 9th.

Who did this? I will never know. I was a crime to make a false complaint and it was clearly meant to terrorize me and my family, as well as prevent me from speaking out. As a result, I have not commented on any article since.

Update 11/02/15 Recently, I posted a YouTube video on Facebook that had been made by my friend of mine who runs a veteran's organization, who has partnered with me to use my 38-acre property in Arizona in order to develop an eco-retreat for homeless veterans. In no time that post made its way to Tossona's timeline (he is ill and disabled now), where he was quick to vilify me as some sort of crook and asked people to call the veteran's organization to complain. Well...they did...and they were told that I am donating my property and have not asked for anything in return. So there.

The terrible thing, is that I found myself feeling as if I had to defend myself to my friend who had a limited idea of what had gone on in 2009. Tossona told him of feces, hoarding, food I had been given by AC but had given to others, and blah, blah, blah...the usual AC pack of lies...obviously trying to paint me in as bad a light as possible. Thank God this person knew better, so there was no real damage done. But still, it was a horrible thing to go through...again...and it dredged up all of those familiar feelings of being unsafe. It was the next day, through a Google search, that I would find out that Logan Neill had passed away AND discover that the former AC Supervisor in my case, Patrick Pace, had become a criminal.

I vacillated between feeling shocked, relieved, and sad for his family that had nothing to do with anything. I must admit, though, that I did feel a lot safer with him permanently out of the picture.

Now, I did try to get Facebook to remove Tossona's inflammatory post as it violated their community guidelines, but they did nothing. I removed the root post, but the shares did not seem to go away either, even on the pages of a people I had blocked. I was reminded of this segment from the 2008 movie, "Doubt."


                                                                  FOOTNOTES

* AC officers have maybe 40 hours of training, yet consider themselves somehow to be psychological experts. They stated both in the courtroom and in the press that storing animals in the freezer was a symptom of hoarding, something about an unwillingness to get rid of the bodies. This ridiculous assessment was given credibility as it was written about repeatedly and at length by Logan Neill. I was made to look mentally ill.

While reading a recent article from 4/27/12 about AC dumping animal remains in a landfill, I noticed the article also states, "Zeus, whose death has caused an uproar in the community because of his hasty demise, is being stored in the freezer at Animal Services." So, this is okay for THEM? They are allowed to do this until they decide what to do, and I am not allowed to? I broke no law, but they used this against me to defile my character, something that they themselves do.

** I have subsequently discovered upon researching the Florida Statutes concerning Inspection Warrants...and without one you have NO authority to take photographs on private property without the permission of the owner of said property. AC cannot deny that these photos were taken, because 2 of them appeared in Logan Neill's article of October 28th, complete with the date "9/16" stamped on them.

*** As much as I believe that this anonymous complaint came either from AC or the police themselves, I have also found this out since; your home cannot be searched without probable cause that a crime is being committed, much less without a warrant.

"If an officer did not personally witness the offense, and there are no other identified witnesses or complainant, then there is no cause to file charges based on an anonymous complaint because there are no witnesses or evidence to support the charge.
An officer must now independently obtain evidence or probable cause to investigate further.
Another example would be an anonymous complaint of a nuisance barking dog. If the dog is no longer barking when the officer arrives on scene, then the officer has no evidence to support writing a ticket. The evidence needed would have been a statement from an identified complainant (witness)."


Here is another instance of a warrant being declared invalid by a judge because it was obtained on an anonymous complaint:
SECRETARY OF LABOR, Complainant, v. ROBERT K. BELL ENTERPRISES, Respondent. OSHRC Docket No. 78-4332...and mind you, this case involved a warrant:

"
Judge Murphy ruled that the warrant was invalid it is entirety.  He noted that the affidavit filed with the magistrate in support of OSHA's warrant application set forth two grounds for the issuance of a warrant:  the anonymous complaint concerning allegedly hazardous conditions at the park; and the compliance officer's observation of unguarded machinery while in route to Bell's office.  In Judge Murphy's view, the anonymous complaint to OSHA was "too vague to provide a basis for issuing a warrant."  The judge also found it unnecessary to decide whether the compliance officer's observation of unguarded machinery established probable cause because, even if it did, the scope of inspection authorized by the warrant exceeded the scope of the probable cause supplied by the observation."

My home was searched based on what I believe was a bogus anonymous complaint, and without a warrant.

Check this out: (Click here to see the original post.)



"I know many social workers and others believe there is an exemption of the warrant requirement in child abuse investigations.  But,  the Ninth Circuit Court has ruled in Calabretta v. Floyd that as a general rule, unreasonable searches and seizures are banned and it presumes that all warrantless searches are unreasonable. The only exemptions for not getting a warrant (aside from voluntarily agreeing to a search) during the course of an investigation for child abuse are twofold:
 
1.      That the social worker has in his or her possession evidence that would establish probable cause, and
2.      There are exigent circumstances (meaning there is an emergency) threatening the health or welfare of the child. 
 
Please print up the following page which details "Why Warrantless Entries Into Homes Are Generally Unconstitutional" and add it to your law notebook.  http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/CPSMemo.pdf"

"State courts are expected to apply both federal and state law to cases before them and have consequently also applied the traditional law of the Fourth Amendment to child abuse investigations by social workers. In several cases, these state courts have interpreted state statutes in such a way as to prevent the possibility of a conflict with the United States Constitution.
The Alabama Court of Appeals decided a case in which a social worker received an anonymous report of child abuse but was denied entry by the mother. The social worker then went to state court under Alabama law seeking a court order to coerce the entry. The order was granted by the trial court, but that decision was reversed by the Alabama Court of Appeals. H.R. v. Alabama Dept. of Human Resources, 612 So. 2d 477 (1992), cert. denied (Ala. 1993).
The Alabama Court of Appeals held that the Alabama statute which authorized entry orders “upon cause shown” should be construed to mean “reasonable or probable cause.” 

Otherwise, the court said, the legislature would have required unconstitutional searches.

Recent Warrantless Entry Cases
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Calabretta v. Floyd, 189 F.3d 808 (9th Cir. 1999) (alluded to previously), affirmed the Fourth Amendment protection for families subject to child abuse and neglect investigations. The Social workers and police officers brought a motion for summary judgment to have the complaint dismissed on the grounds of immunity. The defendants’ claimed that even though they may have violated the family’s Fourth Amendment protections by forcing their way into a home pursuant to a child abuse and neglect investigation, the law applying the Fourth Amendment was not clearly established. The Court ruled that the law was clearly established in California, that the only exception to the Fourth Amendment requirement to obtain a warrant or court order to enter a home, is consent and exigent circumstances. Neither of those situations was apparent; therefore, the defendants were subject to the assessment of damages for violations of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

Roe v. Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, 299 F.3d 395 (5th Cir. 2002), held that social workers were bound by the Fourth Amendment in their investigation of child abuse. Specifically, the court said that “we must apply the traditional Fourth Amendment analysis where a child protective services search is so intimately intertwined with law enforcement.” Id. at

Roska ex rel Roska v. Peterson, 2003 WL 1963209 (10th Cir. 2003), also applied Fourth Amendment standards to social worker investigations. In that case, the court held that social workers were required to obtain a warrant before entering a home to remove a child.
In Doe v. Heck, 327 F.3d 492 (7th Cir. 2003), the court held that social workers who entered a private school and interviewed a child about child abuse had violated the Fourth Amendment because they did not first obtain a warrant. The court said that “it is clear that the foregoing actions [entering the school and interviewing the child] constitute both a search and a seizure under the Fourth Amendment… the defendants' warrantless search of the school and seizure of the child are presumptively unreasonable.” Id. at 509, 513.

Thus, in recent years, the federal courts of appeals have made it clear that social workers are bound by the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement even in child abuse investigations.

Conclusion:
The Fourth Amendment is federal law, and applies equally to all states. The law is clear that there is no social worker exception to the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. Police officers and social workers that ignore the law are subject to the payment of money damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983, 1986."


**** As far as the sting operation in which the police and DFS approached me like a criminal, opened the back door of my car, and snatched my son out of my car completely based on an anonymous complaint which we know now does not constitute probable cause: "A court in the Second Circuit has also specifically applied the normal rules of the Fourth Amendment to child abuse investigations conducted by social workers. Relying on a case previously affirmed by the Second Circuit, a federal district court in New York announced that traditional Fourth Amendment standards apply to social workers and police officers making child abuse investigations. In the case of Tenenbaum v. Williams, 862 F. Supp. 962 (E.D.N.Y. 1994), the court held that the probable cause and warrant requirements, applicable to Fourth Amendment cases under criminal law, applied to searches and seizures of children believed to have been subjects of child abuse. The district court relied upon a case affirmed by the Second Circuit, wherein it was stated, "The emergency removal of John Doe requires 'probable cause' to believe that he was in immediate physical danger from his surroundings and that removal was necessary to insure his safety." Doe v. Connecticut, Dept. of Children and Youth Services, 712 F. Supp. 277, 284 (D.Conn. 1989), aff'd, 911 F.2d 868 (2nd Cir. 1990)." (Read original source by clicking here.)
Loudermilk v. Arpaio, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76819 (D. Ariz. September 27, 2007)
With respect to Plaintiffs' claim based on violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, parents and children have a constitutional right to live together without governmental interference and will not be separated without due process of law except in emergencies. Motion to dismiss by CPS worker and others who coerced entry into home denied.


*****
Michael v. Gresbach, (7th Cir. 2008)
The court held that: "a reasonable child welfare worker would have known that conducting a search of a child's body under his clothes, on private property, without consent or the presence of any other exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment, is in direct violation of the child's constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches." No qualified immunity for this CPS caseworker! The court also held that the state statute that allowed for "investigations" on private property without a search warrant was itself unconstitutional as applied.

A list of similar cases can be found here.



RIP T.J., who was given to us by the sister of the former owner of our house in New Port Richey, because she could not have animals in her new apartment. Here he is, back in 2005 when we still lived in New Port Richey, learning to sit. He was just one of many "unadoptable" animals murdered by a heart stick, courtesy of Hernando County Animal Control.
 
Blog Designer