Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tell Jean Cyhanick What To Do

UPDATE 12/15/10: We hit the $20,000 milestone and are now working on raising the last of the $35,000. You are not too late to pledge. We received a challenge pledge from Hank Greenwood of the American Dog Breeders Association and we have met that challenge. This is going very well, but we need more pledges in the next day or two to go ahead with Jean's appeal. The money, when it is time to send it, will go directly to her lawyer. This is a good case. Please do what you can to help.

You may have read about the Jean Cyhanick case (if not, see the previous blog post, below) in which a commercial breeder in Virginia was convicted of  animal cruelty because five of her dogs had dirty teeth plus two had old (healed) eye injuries, and of a number of other lesser charges, most of them depending on her being legally a 'commercial breeder' because the state counted dogs at her kennel that were not hers, thus pushing her over the 29 dog limit.

There's not a single one of us who owns even a few dogs who couldn't be convicted of cruelty based on the law that got Jean Cyhanick: If a condition could 'progress' then under our law it must be given emergency veterinary treatment and if you don't provide that, you are guilty of cruelty.

In Virginia a cruelty conviction means you can never again sell a dog. The court can also order you not to own animals and Jean is limited to four dogs.

I've followed many of these cases. This one is clean -- not a breeder with a bunch of unhealthy and/or dirty dogs who wasn't given his rights, but someone who tried to do everything properly and still got nailed.

I've visited her kennel, it was fine, with healthy, friendly dogs. She never had any official or vet there without offering a full tour; sometimes she got suggestions (which she took), but she never got a single citation.

Considering the violations of basic rights inherent in the laws under which she was convicted and the rotten action in court, I think her conviction stands a good chance of being reversed on appeal.

Jean WANTS to appeal, BUT ...

An appeal (to the Virginia Court of Appeals) will cost her $35,000 in attorney fees and costs. She doesn't have the money.

(She's already out over $13,000 and that's not counting the loss of all her dogs which the court required her to give away.)

I don't have it either, and none of us who are involved know anyone who does.

So, YOU get to make the decision. If YOU -- and everyone else we can reach -- can help us pull together $35,000 to make it possible, then Jean plans to appeal. If, on the other hand, the breeding and dog community doesn't think an appeal is worthwhile enough to put up most of the money, then it WON'T happen.

Winning an appeal would immediately destroy one or more of the worst animal laws in Virginia, would give us much more clout in going after the other bad ones through the legislature, and would be citeable in similar cases nationwide.

How many times have we discussed the idea of a group to fund legal action? And passed it by, because most victims plead guilty and most of the rest lack either or both of a clean case and a clear violation of constitutional rights? (How useful would it be to throw money at a lot of 'sure loser' cases?) Or maybe they were accused of something that wouldn't be a threat to you or I? (Self interest does matter ...)

Well, now we have the kind of case for which an appeal stands a good chance, and a charge of cruelty for dirty teeth (or maybe yours would be for fleas, or worms, or a scratched up tail ...) could happen to anyone in Virginia, TODAY. Your state? Maybe now; almost certainly later if we don't stop it here.

What I need from you by this coming Monday, December 13th at noon is an email to me personally (waltah @, take out the spaces) with an informal pledge of an amount. No binding obligation but PLEASE DO NOT PLEDGE UNLESS YOU'RE PRETTY CONFIDENT YOU CAN CARRY THROUGH.

If you cannot pledge by Monday but expect to be able to do so soon, please let me know the story by Monday. Please get 'PLEDGE -- Jean Cyhanick case' in your subject line.

A sentence or two about why this matters to you will be helpful. Actual money would be needed by December 24th IF ENOUGH IS PLEDGED and IF I REMAIN CONVINCED THAT THE APPEAL HAS A GOOD CHANCE as the planning goes forward.

DO NOT SEND MONEY NOW. Among other things we want to work out the mechanics of how that will be done.

We don't need pledges for the entire amount by Monday, but I have to be convinced that we can get there. I'd say somewhere north of $20,000 in pledges (by Monday) would do it for me, if enough others tell me they are trying and expect to be able to commit shortly.

We're pledging the price of one of our puppies -- $1150. Jean will put in substantially more than that. I hope that some other breeders will consider this case sufficiently important to offer the price of a puppy. Are there clubs that could contribute?

I wish we could give everyone more time but Virginia requires Circuit Court appeals to be filed within 30 days and that clock is already running. Because preparation is most of the job, the attorney needs to have his money before he gets deeply into it.

Finally, if it turns out that we can't raise the money, then that's okay. This is a long war; if we don't have the 'troops' for this battle, then maybe a year from now with another case. Pledge what you can and do not feel guilty about not doing more.

Jean feels the same way I do: She's comfortable with however this turns out.



Walt Hutchens
Timbreblue Whippets