Case Snapshot
Case ID: 14919
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Thursday, Sep 1, 2005

County: Owen

Disposition: Civil Case

Person of Interest: Tammy Gilchrist

Case Updates: 5 update(s) available

The state is suing a southern Indiana woman and her Internet-based puppy breeding business.

The Indiana attorney general's office said Tammy Gilchrist operates a business in rural Owen County that fails to deliver puppies offered for sale and misrepresents the health or age of the puppies, among other allegations, Call 6's Rafael Sanchez reported.

The attorney general's office said it could document that 14 out-of-state customers either gave Gilchrist money for a puppy that was not received, never received a shipping refund, never received papers, or paid for and received a sick puppy that later died.

The state estimated that Gilchrist owes consumers and the state in excess of $65,000.

Officials said Gilchrist operates the business under several aliases and business names. Gilchrist told the state she will comply with consumer protection laws after learning of legal action pending against her, the attorney general's office said.

"There has been a history and pattern of behavior exhibited that resulted in a negative impact on consumers," said Attorney General Steve Carter.

The attorney general's office said Gilchrist has been operating under the following aliases.

* Tammy Workman
* Tammy Killea
* Sam Workman
* Samantha Workman

Officials said Gilchrist operated the following business names on various Web sites since October 2003.

* AKA Kennel
* TEKS Kennel
* Puppysrus
* Affordable Pups

The Better Business Bureau issued an alert in September 2005 after receiving complaints against TEKS Kennels.

Attorney Paul Watts said Gilchrist is not involved in any misconduct and is not running a puppy mill.

Consumers can follow some simple guidelines to avoid problems when dealing with breeders, Sanchez reported.

Potential customers should visit the breeder's kennel to see that it is clean and that the dogs are well fed and lively. Customers should also ask to see at least one of the dog's parents.

Responsible breeders frequently ask questions to make sure their dog is going to a good home. Customers should be wary of someone who will sell to anyone.

Reputable breeders should always deliver on promises involving American Kennel Club papers. If a breeder refuses to do so, it is a bad sign, Sanchez reported.


Case Updates

The owner of a commercial dog-breeding operation the state shut down pleaded guilty this week to felony tax-evasion charges and will have to spend part of her sentence cleaning animal cages here in Montgomery County. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he will next seek to collect a tax judgment of $193,700 that the defendant owes the state.

This week in Marion County Superior Criminal Court 15, Tammy Gilchrist pleaded guilty to two Class D felonies: failure to remit or collect sales tax and failure to permit examination of sales-tax records.

Under the plea agreement with the State of Indiana, Gilchrist was sentenced to two years, suspended. As part of her probation, Gilchrist must perform 40 hours of community service at the Animal Welfare League of Montgomery County, where she will not directly handle pets but must clean animal cages.

"Hoosiers can be doubly harmed by scam artists who not only defraud consumers but the State through tax evasion," said Deputy Attorney General Andrew Swain, chief counsel of the Attorney General's Revenue Division. "The Attorney General's Office is combating these unscrupulous acts on two fronts, through consumer protection mechanisms and through tax laws to ensure businesses are meeting both state and consumer obligations."

Gilchrist and co-owner Walter Workman operated a commercial dog-breeding business known by various names - including Kritter Heaven - in Cloverdale, Ind., that was the subject of numerous consumer complaints. In March 2006, then-Attorney General Steve Carter filed a consumer-fraud lawsuit against Gilchrist and her company, alleging Gilchrist failed to deliver puppies customers had paid for or delivered diseased puppies that were misrepresented as being healthy. The lawsuit seeking consumer restitution is ongoing; a hearing on the State's default judgment is set for next month.

Alleging that Gilchrist failed to collect or remit approximately $193,000 in sales tax owed from her puppy transactions, the Attorney General's Office on Dec. 23, 2008, served a warrant at Gilchrist's puppy mill and seized 74 dogs and puppies that were caged in squalid conditions, as well as four horses. The Attorney General's office obtained an injunction prohibiting Gilchrist from selling dogs.

Under the Attorney General's legal authority to bring criminal charges of sales-tax evasion on behalf of the Indiana Department of Revenue, Zoeller's office later charged Gilchrist with five Class D felony counts and two misdemeanors. Charges were filed in Marion County because Indianapolis is the seat of state government.

Also charged with similar counts were Workman and Gilchrist's employee Julie Herrick. In October 2009, Herrick pleaded guilty to failing to remit or collect sales tax, was sentenced to probation and agreed to testify against Gilchrist if Gilchrist's case went to trial.

Gilchrist's guilty plea to two felony charges, with the remaining counts dismissed, resolves her criminal case. The Attorney General's Office previously obtained a tax judgment in Owen County against Gilchrist for the unpaid sales tax, plus interest, which as of Dec. 23, 2009, totaled $193,700. In collecting the tax amount owed, the State can garnishee wages or seize property.

Workman also pleaded guilty today to one count of failure to remit or collect sales tax and was sentenced to one year of probation. Gilchrist, Workman and Herrick are forbidden from selling or breeding dogs while on probation.

Since the December 2008 enforcement action against Gilchrist's puppy mill, the Attorney General's Office has filed sales-tax evasion charges against the operators of two other businesses: a Goshen, Ind., merchant who sold poor-quality stereo equipment out of parking lots without collecting sales tax, and the owners of a Harrison County puppy mill that sold puppies without collecting sales tax. The stereo case ended in a guilty plea; the dog-breeders' case is ongoing.

This week's guilty pleas by Gilchrist and Workman come as a new state law regulating puppy mills went into full effect Jan. 1.

The new law passed last April by the Indiana General Assembly, House Enrolled Act 1468, gives county prosecutors greater ability to file criminal charges for animal neglect and animal cruelty. The law sets basic requirements for dog breeders to provide food, water and exercise to their dogs.

It created a new registry of commercial dog breeders and dog brokers through the State Board of Animal Health (SBoA), and requires breeders and brokers to register annually and pay registration fees, based on the number of unaltered dogs they own.

The Attorney General's Office enforces a provision of the new law with SBoA. If breeders or brokers fail to register or misrepresent the number of dogs they own, then the Attorney General's Office can seek civil penalties of between $500 and $5,000 or seek a court injunction to require violators to stop selling dogs. Those who fail to pay registration fees could be required to pay double, under the new law.
Source: The Paper of Montgomery County Online - Jan 10, 2010
Update posted on Jan 11, 2010 - 3:20PM 
A woman who promised to shut down her dog-selling business following numerous complaints about the health of the animals was still in business in recent months under several assumed names.

Nearly three years after the state filed suit against Tammy Gilchrist, she was still selling dogs -- some of them ill, Call 6's Rafael Sanchez reported.

Customers all over the country have spent thousands of dollars on veterinary bills in hopes of saving gravely ill puppies.

Blake Brownlee said he racked up $1,300 in vet bills after he bought a Pomeranian puppy, Bella, from Gilchrist and her business, Kritter Heaven.

Within days, Brownlee took Bella to four vets to keep her alive.

"She was almost going to die. She actually had to be hooked up to an IV drip line," Brownlee said.

Bella was diagnosed with parvovirus, a highly contagious intestinal virus that is frequently deadly. A veterinarian said Bella had been exposed to parvovirus before Brownlee bought her and hadn't been properly vaccinated, in spite of Gilchrist's promises.

"Not in a million years would I dream what I was about to go through," Brownlee said.

Melissa Grimes said she spent $1,500 to save her pocket beagle from fleas, ringworm and scabies.

"It was so bad that my vet pretty much knew my phone number," she said.

Forty-three other customers shared similar stories with Call 6. All said they paid Gilchrist for puppies that were sick or were never delivered, or for kennel papers that were never provided.

After a Call 6 investigation in February, Gilchrist sent an e-mail that said she was shutting down the business.

Her business partner, Wally Workman, also said they planned to close up shop.

"We got overwhelmed. That's why we're shutting down," Workman said. "We're done. It's too much."

Gilchrist was found back in business within the last two months when Call 6 sent volunteers with hidden cameras out to puppy shop. She was seen on hidden camera in three separate meetings over five weeks.

"We rescue, so you're in the right market. Yeah, these are all rescues," Gilchrist said during one of the hidden camera encounters. "We've been doing it since the '80s."

In each encounter, Gilchrist asked would-be buyers to meet her at a gas station in Stilesville or Plainfield in hopes of exchanging canines for cash.

Each time, Gilchrist -- who used the name Stacey Picas in her ads -- was there. Other names her business recently used to sell a wide array of dog breeds at a variety of prices include Ernest Woods, Dottie's Antiqs and Tricounty.

When Sanchez confronted Gilchrist, she denied she is Tammy Gilchrist and denied selling sick dogs.

"I'm Stacey Picas," Gilchrist said. When asked why she was again selling dogs, Gilchrist said, "I'm not."

Beverly van Haaften, who bought a dog from Gilchrist that died of parvovirus, said she's disheartened that Gilchrist is still in business.

"We've got to be able to do something … to keep this from happening over and over and over again," van Haaften said.

Van Haaften and her husband are in a unique situation to help make changes. Find out how Tuesday on 6News at 6:00.

Had Dealings With Tammy Gilchrist?: Contact Call 6 at call6@theindychannel.com For Help
Source: The Indy Channel - Nov 24, 2008
Update posted on Nov 24, 2008 - 2:48PM 
Hours before a Call 6 investigation was set to air on 6News Wednesday, the owner of Kritter Heaven, billed as a dog rescue, said she plans to shutter the Cloverdale-area business.

Complaints have again been mounting against Tammy Gilchrist's business, which Call 6 first investigated in 2006, accused of selling sick dogs to unsuspecting animal lovers across the country, Call 6's Rafael Sanchez reported.

Gilchrist said she would close the business and give away the last of her dogs on Wednesday. She said she has financial and health problems that are too overwhelming for her to continue the operation.

Before Call 6 learned of Gilchrist's closure plans, one of her former customers, Erin Jackson, recalled the death of her puppy, Wrigley. Her fiancé, Ben Nickel, had bought the pocket beagle from Kritter Heaven.

"(Wrigley) pretty much ... died in my arms, like he just fell asleep. It was just horrible," Jackson said.

"We only had him for seven days, but for that seven days this was our child," Nickel said.

Shortly after Nickel bought the dog, it was diagnosed with parvovirus, a highly contagious illness that can be especially dangerous for puppies.

"I called her to tell her that ... my vet told me that he had parvo, and she said, 'Well, your vet's a liar,'" Nickel said.

The dog was dying, and several visits to the vet could not save Wrigley.

Two other Kritter Heaven customers, Jenny Burns and her daughter, were lucky. They said the puggle puppy they bought there was sick, but the dog survived after they spent about $1,000 on veterinary services.

"Other people said, 'Don't you wish you'd never gone out there?' I said, 'Yes, but then again, our puppy would be dead,'" Burns said.

Two years ago, Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter's office sued Gilchrist, alleging that she failed to deliver dogs, sold sick animals and operated without a proper kennel license.

Shortly afterward, Gilchrist got a kennel license and signed an agreement that she would turn things around, Sanchez reported.

Since then, Call 6 has learned of more than 23 new complaints about sick or undelivered dogs.

"There is nothing wrong with the dog when it leaves. What the dog is exposed to is not anything I can deal with," Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist said she has had only one case of parvo at her rescue since 1983.

"I can't control these vets. It's always parvo. And it's not always parvo. I'm sorry. I've seen too much," Gilchrist said.

Nickel said that when he tried to tell Gilchrist his dog had the virus, she told him it was something else and gave him some unconventional advice.

"She was saying that Mountain Dew and penicillin would cure the dog, and she was recommending peanut butter," Nickel said.

Vets with whom 6News checked said they had never heard of the treatments Nickel said Gilchrist suggested.

Call 6 recently purchased a puppy from Kritter Heaven and took it directly to Dr. Janet Lubinski at the Humane Society of Indianapolis. During two check-ups, Lubinski found two common parasites: coccidia and giardia.

"It's something he's likely had since he came to you," Lubinski said. "It would have to be something he got from a contaminated environment with other animals."

In an e-mail, Gilchrist said Lubinski's diagnosis was impossible and claimed that the state said no animal in Indiana has had giardia since 1999. Call 6 checked with state health and animal health officials, who said they never made such a claim. Several area veterinarians also said they regularly see giardia.

Lubinski spotted another issue. On the contract listing the puppy's shots, one vaccine had expired in Oct. 2007, a month before the dog was born.

"I would definitely be concerned, and if it were my dog, I would be bringing it to the attention of the person who you got it from," Lubinski said.

Gilchrist looked at the label on the contract and said that it should have said 2009.

"We don't give these exact shots. This is just a reference for the vets, and vets aren't stupid," Gilchrist said.

Most of the vets with whom 6News checked said they would expect the labels to be from specific shots the animal received.

Gilchrist said she administers most of the vaccines herself. Despite her claims that she works with at least three vets in Nashville, Bloomington and Cloverdale, they told Call 6 they haven't worked with her for many months.

"I don't lie to anybody. I'm not going to start now. My goal is to save lives," Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist has operated businesses in the past under several different names, including Tammy Workman, Tammy Boston and Samantha Workman.

She also used several business names, including AKA Kennel, Puppysrus.com, TEKS Kennel and Affordable Pups.

The attorney general's investigation is ongoing. There was no immediate word about when it might move forward.
Source: The Indy Channel - Feb 27, 2008
Update posted on Nov 24, 2008 - 2:46PM 
A Cloverdale-area business that signed a settlement with the state attorney general's office after being accused of selling sick animals now faces a similar allegation.

A Shelbyville teenager said a puppy she bought in late June from Kritter Heaven was euthanized eight days later because it was ill. The teen's family said it spent nearly $1,000 in veterinarian bills while it owned the dog.

The family said Kritter Heaven had indicated that a veterinarian checked the dog just 11 days before the sale.

The business, owned by Tammy Gilchrist, was the subject of 14 complaints that had been filed with the attorney general's office. Some of the complainants reported receiving sick puppies.

The business makes sales on the Internet and has called itself other names, such as AKA Kennel, Puppysrus.com, TEKS Kennel and Affordable Pups, Call 6 for Help's Rafael Sanchez reported.

In a settlement signed in March, the business told the attorney general's office that it would be honest about the health and age of the puppies it was selling.

Paul Watts, an attorney for the business, said the business doesn't believe the dog was sick when it left Cloverdale. Three other dogs in the same litter are not sick, he said.

Watts said the business was willing to provide another dog but was not given a chance to do so.

The attorney general's office said it was aware of the Shelbyville teen's allegation, but it declined to comment further.
Source: The Indy Channel - July 5, 2006
Update posted on Nov 24, 2008 - 2:45PM 
New complaints have been made against a Cloverdale-area puppy breeding business that had been sued by the state, Call 6 for Help's Rafael Sanchez reported Friday.

A few Indiana residents now accuse the business -- which makes sales on the Internet and goes by AKA Kennel and several other names -- of selling sick puppies. One complainant said a puppy died after delivery.

Earlier this month, the business signed a settlement with the state attorney general after 14 out-of-state customers complained that they didn't receive any animals after making payment or that they received sick puppies.

After the first round of complaints, the owner, Tammy Gilchrist, told the state she would comply with consumer protection laws.

Officials said Gilchrist operates the business under several aliases -- such as Tammy Workman and Tammy Killea -- and business names -- such as Puppysrus.com, TEKS Kennel and Affordable Pups.

An attorney for Gilchrist attributed the complaints to miscommunication. The attorney said Gilchrist was not involved in misconduct.
Source: The Indy Channel - March 17, 2006
Update posted on Nov 24, 2008 - 2:44PM 

References


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