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Monday, Nov 21, 2011County: Frederick
Alleged: Russell Lee Ebersole
Case Updates: 2 update(s) available
Animal control seized almost 30 items from Aberdeen Acres Pet Care Center on Monday, following complaints of animal cruelty, but no animals were removed from the facility.
According to owner Russell Ebersole, the complaints were made by two former employees who were recently fired for being consistently late and smoking on the property, which Ebersole said he does not permit because he believes it has a negative health impact on the dogs.
"After three reprimands, it was time to let them go," Ebersole said. "They both think they got a raw deal."
Ebersole would not release the names of the employees, who are only listed as "former employee #1" and "former employee #2" in the affidavit.
Megan A. Moreland, animal control officer for Frederick County, executed a search warrant Monday and seized three laptops, multiple electronic storage devices, shock collars, agility equipment and employee and veterinarian records, among other items from the Aberdeen Acres Kennel at 667 Walters Mill Lane in the county, according to court records.
According to the affidavit seeking the warrant, a former employee who helped with basic obedience training from July until August advised Moreland that she saw Ebersole "punch, kick, choke, throw, and shock dogs until the dog either went limp or urinated/defecated itself during training season."
At the end of August, she claims she saw Ebersole pick up a Cane Corso named Achilles completely off the floor by the choke collar and leash.
"After Achilles went limp, Mr. Ebersole put him on the floor and continued to choke Achilles for around another 20 seconds," the affidavit reads, explaining that the dog coughed a lot after the incident.
Achilles' owner told Moreland that he dropped his dog off from Aug. 12 to 26. When he dropped him off, the dog was "playful, happy and energetic," but when he picked him up, he was "acting lethargic and afraid" and his eyes were extremely bloodshot. Ebersole told him the dog was sensitive to the fans in the kennels, according to the affidavit.
Four days later, the owner took Achilles to a veterinarian at the Animal Care Center of Strasburg, the affidavit states, and the doctor reported that the dog had burst capillaries resulting from excess use of a choker chain collar, which also caused the coughing. The vet expressed concerns that Ebersole had choked Achilles, the affidavit reads.
The same former employee also told Moreland that she observed Ebersole choking another dog in the training area after hearing the dog yelping.
Another former employee, who was a groomer from May until August, told Moreland she saw Ebersole "hit and kick dogs, swing dogs around, and excessively shock dogs during training sessions." She said she saw him continually kick Flash, a bloodhound receiving on- and off-leash training, in the stomach "from one side of the kennel to the other," about 10 feet in distance.
After Flash started urinating blood and acting lethargic following this incident, Ebersole had one of his employees take the dog to the Berryville Avenue Vet Clinic, she said.
Flash's owner told Moreland that Ebersole informed him they needed to transport his dog to the clinic, but he didn't explain why, the affidavit states. Ebersole gave the owner the bill, which was $800 on top of the $600 bill for training, according to the affidavit.
After Moreland explained what happened to Flash, the owner said the dog had problems urinating and would whimper while defecating for some time after bringing him home from the vet. Before the training period, Flash never urinated in his crate, but afterward, he would urinate in his crate and then lick up the urine, the owner said.
"Flash is still very timid, shy, and shakes when strangers approach him," the affidavit reads.
But Ebersole dismissed the charges, referring to videos on Facebook of both Achilles and Flash during training sessions.
"The videos speak for themselves. ... You've got two healthy, happy, vibrant, fun-loving dogs there having a great time," Ebersole said. "... You're going to see Flash ... running to me with tail wagging. ... If I truly was abusive to this dog, why in the world would he even want to come to me? He should want to run the other way."
Ebersole claims he has a completely open-door policy, allowing owners to come by unannounced whenever and watch their pet's training. He also said that animal control officers searched the entire $4.5 million, 14,500 square feet pet resort and found no evidence of abuse.
He said the search did not impede his daily work and the resort, with 112 dog kennels and 27 cat condos, has not missed a beat throughout the process. It is almost full for Thanksgiving, Ebersole said, with only one empty kennel.
According to court documents, Aberdeen Acres is owned by Russell Lee Ebersole and Karen L. Ebersole.
Almost a decade ago, Russell Ebersole was charged with providing federal agents with unqualified bomb-sniffing dogs that he claimed to have trained at Aberdeen Acres. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison in November 2003 for causing delivery of hazardous materials to an air carrier for transportation and tampering with a witness.
He also served 63 months in prison for committing 25 counts of wire fraud and two counts of presenting false claims to the government for providing unqualified dogs.
After serving time at Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center from the end of April until June 4, 2008, Ebersole filed a $6 million lawsuit against the jail for alleged civil rights violations.
In addition, he was arrested and charged with assault and battery, a class one misdemeanor, in August 2001. The case was dismissed, requiring only that he pay restitution to the victim, an amount totaling about $1,600.
|A Frederick County kennel owner under investigation for possible animal abuse claims a Virginia horse breeder defamed him by stating the accusations on the Internet.|
Russell Lee Ebersole seeks $1.35 million from Bridget Kline-Perry and her Purcellville business, Norsire Farms, in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
Ebersole, of Hagerstown, Md., operates Aberdeen Acres Pet Care Center, 667 Walters Mill Lane, Stephenson.
Frederick County authorities began investigating claims of animal abuse and seized nearly 30 items Nov. 21. Ebersole has not been charged with any crime related to the investigation.
Ebersole did serve time in federal prison for charges related to an investigation into dogs U.S. authorities say he claimed to have trained to detect explosives, but could not perform the task.
Shortly after area media reported on the search of his business, Ebersole claims Kline-Perry began publishing defamatory and false statements on Facebook and other online sites about him and the kennel.
"For reasons unbeknownst to the Plaintiff, the Defendants have engaged in a campaign to discredit, humiliate and generally vilify the Plaintiff," the complaint states.
Kline-Perry posted on her Facebook page on Dec. 8: "Oh Cecilia, don't hold back just say it ... I'll do it for you Russ Ebersole Aberdeen Acres ... dog abuser," the complaint states.
The day prior, Kline-Perry posted on her Facebook page "in response to Plaintiff's picture being in the Northern Virginia Daily Newspaper, 'The face of a Monster and a Con Man PLEASE SHARE AND SPREAD THE WORD,'" the complaint states.
Defendants published posts on their Facebook pages a week earlier asking fans and various news media to "get involved" "while asserting the Plaintiff is a scam artist and other defamatory characterizations, asserting 'People have had dogs die and some injured' ... 'a dog was kicked in the stomach to the point that the dog was urinating blood and had to be taken to the vet.' 'Another lady went to pick up her ... dog only to find that the dog had died and was lied to about the cause.'"
Kline-Perry bred a male German shepherd named Zeus, later sold to Bill and Georgie Straub, long-standing customers of the plaintiff, according to the complaint.
Norsire Farms sent emails to the Straubs on Nov. 26, "publishing a statement, 'I sure hope Zeus is not being trained at the hands of that monster anymore and you guys have woken to the madness,'" the complaint states.
The plaintiff notes Kline-Perry attempted to have a PETA Action Team coordinator stage a demonstration at the kennel on Nov. 30.
"The statements alleged above, taken as a whole, [are] libelous per se, because they imply that the Plaintiff is abusive to animals in his care, incompetent as a trainer, a scam artist and not fit to serve as a pet escort operator, dog trainer, or suppler of manufactured products to assist service dogs in performing their function for the disabled, and as such are capable of defamatory meaning and construction," the complaint states.
Kline-Perry, represented by Fairfax attorney Steven W. Bancroft, admitted in her answer to the complaint to publishing emails and posts on Facebook and comments in local media. The defendant denied any of the plaintiff's allegations and asked the court to dismiss Ebersole's lawsuit.
The plaintiff seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.
|Source: nvdaily.com - Jan 25, 2012|
Update posted on Jan 26, 2012 - 5:39PM
|Russell Ebersole might see the inside of a courtroom again soon.|
Frederick County Animal Control officers seized almost 30 items from Aberdeen Acres Pet Care Center, his pet grooming, boarding and training facility at 667 Walters Mill Lane on Nov. 21, but that was just the beginning.
Although Deputy Megan Moreland said there were no "obvious signs of terrible injury" to the unseized pets there, she is still investigating reports of animal abuse dating back to 2009.
There have been about 20 formal complaints made against Ebersole in the last two years, but officers recently acted on them because they were corroborated by both witnesses and dog owners. Ebersole previously spent 63 months in prison, partly for providing unqualified bomb-sniffing dogs to federal agents.
Once animal control officers finish investigating electronic documents they seized from the property and following up with complaints, they will take the case to the Commonwealth Attorney's Office to determine whether any charges should be filed, Moreland said. But it might be awhile.
"I couldn't even tell you or begin to guess how long it's going to be," she said.
The possible charges against Ebersole range from a Class 1 misdemeanor for not properly caring for animals in the care of a boarding establishment or groomer, to a Class 1 misdemeanor for animal cruelty or a Class 6 felony if that cruelty results in the animal's death, according to Virginia code.
If found guilty of any of these crimes, the fate of Ebersole's business would lie solely in the hands of the judge, Moreland said.
Ebersole said he is registered with the State Corporation Commission under a name he can no longer remember that his lawyer created. The name "Aberdeen Acres Inc." has been purged, according to the SCC website, meaning it has not been registered for at least five years. Ebersole also said he has a conditional-use permit with the county to operate a boarding establishment, but said there are no separate licenses to obtain in Virginia for dog training.
According to the affidavit seeking the search warrant of Aberdeen Acres, one former employee said she saw Ebersole choke a Cane Corso named Achilles until he went limp, and the veterinarian who saw Achilles four days later said the dog's eyes contained burst capillaries, expressing concern that he had been choked.
Ebersole said he didn't personally train Achilles, but when he performed his "quality check" two days before his owner picked him up, the dog tried to bite him.
"These guys are 150-pound Italian pit-bulls," he said. "... I was just defending myself."
He tried to keep Achilles away from him by holding the collar out from his body, he said, but the dog kept lunging at him.
"I had no choice but to physically put my entire body on top of him and pin him to the ground," Ebersole said.
Ebersole estimated that he has defended himself against 50 to 60 dangerous dogs.
Another former employee told Moreland she saw Ebersole continually kick Flash, a bloodhound, in the stomach.
After the dog started urinating blood and acting lethargic following that incident, one of Ebersole's employees took Flash to the Berryville Avenue Veterinary Clinic, after which the owner received an $800 bill, the affidavit states. The owner said the dog had difficulty urinating and whimpered while defecating for a while afterward. Also, the owner reported Flash urinating in his crate and licking up the urine, which he never did before.
Ebersole said Flash had diarrhea for two days before he arrived at Aberdeen Acres, adding that he allowed Flash's owner, who couldn't immediately afford the vet bill, to pay him back over time.
Ebersole said he offers a 100 percent money-back guarantee for anyone unhappy with his services, but he hasn't had to use it in about 10 years. He doesn't believe either of the owners filed complaints, noting that they were questioned by Moreland, who probably instructed them that their dogs were involved in an animal abuse investigation.
"What connection are you going to make," Ebersole asked. "That the vet bill is somehow related to that abuse? ... There was a leap there."
After the search and seizure, Ebersole claimed that both of the former employees referenced in the affidavit had been fired for being consistently late and smoking on the propertly. But Moreland said the two women had not been fired. Ebersole said Monday that they were given the choice between being terminated or voluntarily resigning, and they both chose to resign.
|Source: nvdaily.com - Dec 5, 2011 |
Update posted on Dec 7, 2011 - 7:11PM
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