Case Snapshot
Case ID: 4463
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005

County: Prince William

Disposition: Convicted

Defendant/Suspect: Robert Clifton Artois

Case Updates: 3 update(s) available

The founder of Black Wolf Rescue shelter in Triangle was charged with 28 counts of animal cruelty on Tuesday, April 26.

Robert Clifton Artois, 56, was arrested, Prince William Police Master Detective Samson Newsome said.

Additional charges may be pending. Authorities are awaiting the results of a necropsy, or animal autopsy, performed on a dog found dead at Artois' home, said Newsome, head of the Prince William County Animal Shelter.

Animal control officers entered Artois' home and shelter after receiving a complaint of abandoned dogs April 18, according to documents filed with Prince William General District Court. The complainant told authorities that Artois was incarcerated in the Alexandria City Jail and had asked her to care for the animals until he was released.

Artois was held at the Alexandria City Jail for six days for contempt of court in a civil case, according to Alexandria City Jail records. He was released April 19.

The complainant told animal control authorities that there was a strong smell of animal urine and feces coming from the house and a large rodent problem was apparent inside, according to court documents.

Inside the house, surrounded by three acres on a hill, animal control officers discovered 25 dogs and wolves. Most of the dogs were locked inside crates and standing in their own waste, according to court documents. Four more dogs were found with no food or water in crates in a shed. One of the four was dead.

"They were not in the best condition. It warranted immediate attention and removal," Newsome said. "The way they [the animal control officers] went in and the compassion I saw from them in handling these animals was amazing. The conditions were extremely harsh and unfavorable."

The animals were taken to the county shelter, where a veterinarian was standing by to treat them, Newsome said. The dogs had a variety of medical problems, including skin ailments from their backs rubbing against crates that were too small, according to Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Sandra R. Sylvester.

According to court documents, 13 of the 28 dogs were wolves or wolf hybrids. The remaining dogs included German shepherds, cocker spaniels, a black Lab and a Jack Russell terrier.

One of the dogs died at the shelter, and another gave birth to a litter of puppies Friday. The county shelter didn't have room for so many animals, but Newsome was able to make arrangements for some of the shelter's adoptable animals to go to shelters in Manassas City and Fauquier, Fairfax and Loudoun counties to make room for the new arrivals.

"The conditions weren't fit for man or animal," said Sylvester, who accompanied the officers April 18 when they seized the dogs and took them to the shelter. "It broke my heart. I'm an animal lover."

This isn't Artois' first contact with animal control officers. Artois was charged with one count of cruelty to animals in November 2004. The summons filed with Prince William General District Court noted unsanitary conditions, not providing adequate food, water or living space, but gave no other details. Artois is scheduled for a June court date in that case.

The Black Wolf Rescue was licensed by both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the county. The rescue was still licensed with the USDA last week. An official at the USDA's Animal Care Eastern Region office in Raleigh, N.C., wouldn't release the status of Artois' license or any additional information over the phone. Prince William County had issued Artois a kennel license for up to 12 dogs, Newsome said. He declined to comment on the status of Artois' county license.

According to its Web site, the shelter was "dedicated to the rescue and survival of abused and abandoned captive born wolves. Black Wolf Rescue saves the lives of wolves and wolf dogs in the Northern Virginia area."

The site also describes the rescue's ambassador program, which provided education about wolves and wolf hybrids. For several months, Artois showed his wolves at the Dale City Petco on Sundays, Petco manager Tony Fuentes said. A few times Artois offered Lab dogs for adoption, Fuentes recalled. Artois stopped coming about eight months ago.

In addition to providing photos and information about Artois' wolves or wolf hybrids, the site solicited donations for the shelter. But that wasn't Artois' only dealings on the Internet.

In 2003, Artois was convicted of two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He met a 15-year-old boy on the Internet, according to documents filed with Prince William Circuit Court. Artois was sentenced to a suspended 24-month jail sentence, based upon successful completion of two years' probation, according to Circuit Court records. Since Artois was still on probation when he was charged with animal cruelty, he could face probation violation proceedings if convicted, Newsome said.

Artois also had convictions for contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 1997 and felony larceny in 1983 in Fairfax County, according to a criminal record filed with Prince William Circuit Court.

Artois will be arraigned today on the animal abuse charges, Newsome said. Artois is also scheduled to appear in court Thursday on a petition seeking to transfer the dogs' ownership to animal control authorities. Without the court order, the dogs and wolves can only be kept at the shelter for 10 days. A General District Court judge will hear the petition and determine if the dogs are to be returned to Artois or if the shelter can assess them for adoption, Newsome said.

None of the dogs are available for viewing or ready for adoption. The dogs have to be medically stabilized and then each will be assessed to determine if it is adoptable, Newsome said. He added that the dogs are not only victims, but also evidence in the ongoing criminal investigation.

"Some of them are probably not adoptable -- we're talking about the wolf hybrids," Newsome said. "We have to make sure they are stabilized. Dogs kept in this kind of situation can be very unpredictable."

Case Updates

Robert Clifton Artois, founder of a wolf-dog rescue haven in southern Prince William County was convicted today of 29 counts of animal cruelty.

Artois, owner of Black Wolf Rescue in Triangle, was found guilty on all charges placed by Prince William County authorities, based on a search of his property in April.

Prosecutor Sandra R. Sylvester called half a dozen witnesses, including two veterinarians, who testified that the animals in Artois' care-including 12 wolf hybrids-had been abandoned, in her words, "in horrible squalor."

After rejecting Defense Attorney Timothy Ward's contention that the neglect was not intential, General District Judge Peter Steketee ordered a presentencing report and suggested Artois undergo a psychological examination. The judge set a July 12 sentencing date.
Source: - June 1, 2005
Update posted on Jun 2, 2005 - 6:54AM 
The founder of Black Wolf Rescue in Triangle appears to have run from the 29 animal abuse charges he faces.

Robert Clifton Artois, 56, failed to show Monday for a hearing in Prince William General District Court.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Sandra R. Sylvester told the court she has reason to believe Artois may have fled to North Carolina. After 29 dogs and wolf hybrids were seized from Artois' rented Triangle home April 18, Artois left several voice mail messages for animal control officers, telling them of plans to move to North Carolina, Sylvester said after the hearing.

Artois was charged with animal abuse after a woman called Prince William County Animal Control to report the conditions of multiple dogs and wolf hybrids at Artois' 19325 Fuller Heights Road home. The woman said Artois had been jailed in Alexandria and he had asked her to care for the animals. The animals were in such a condition that she couldn't, the woman said.

Authorities found 29 dogs and wolf hybrids shut in cages that were too small for them, according to a criminal complaint filed with General District court. The animals were standing in their own waste. A dead dog was found in a truck. All the live dogs were in various stages of ill

treatment, including inadequate food, water, sanitary habitat and/or veterinary care, according to the criminal complaint. The animals were taken to the county animal shelter, where they remain.

"Mr. Artois maintains his innocence and that he did provide adequate care for these animals," defense attorney Timothy Ward said after the hearing. Ward wouldn't comment on Artois' apparent flight or say if he had spoken with Artois.

Artois was arrested April 26. At a May 3 bond hearing, General District Court Judge Charles F. Sievers denied Artois bond, and he remained in jail. About a week later, Artois sent a note to jail authorities, requesting another court hearing. Artois wrote that he wanted a defense attorney appointed to him, according to court documents. On May 11, General District Court Judge Peter W. Steketee appointed Ward to Artois' case. Artois had told General District Court Judge Wenda K. Travers during an April 28 hearing that he was trying to retain Ward.

According to Circuit Court records, Ward represented Artois in 2003 when he was charged with two counts of crimes against nature. The victim was a 15-year-old boy Artois met on the Internet, according to court documents. The two met online and in person for a year, according to court documents. Artois pleaded guilty to two amended charges of carnal knowledge and was sentenced to 24 months in jail. The jail time was suspended based on a two-year probation period during which Artois was to complete sex offender treatment, undergo random lie detector tests and have no contact with minors.

Artois failed to attend his appointment last week for sex offender treatment, Sylvester said. Not complying with terms of probation can lead to a probation violation hearing. Since Artois was still on probation when he was charged with animal cruelty, he could also face probation violation proceedings if convicted. Artois was also convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 1997 and felony larceny in 1983 in Fairfax County, according to a criminal record filed with Prince William Circuit Court.

During the May 11 hearing, Steketee also granted Artois bond: $1,000 on each of the 29 animal abuse charges.

Artois posted the required percentage of the bond amount and was released. He told the court he would be living at his Fuller Heights Road home. Sheriff's deputies went to the address seven times to inform Artois of his Monday court date, and were unable to locate him, according to notes in Artois' court file. Sylvester told the court Monday that Artois had been evicted from the Fuller Heights address several weeks ago for failure to pay rent.

After the hearing Monday, Sylvester said she was unaware of the May 11 court date at which Steketee granted Artois bond until two days later, when a witness called her.

"The commonwealth had no ability to argue he was a flight risk," Sylvester said.

Under Virginia law, a judge or magistrate can deny a defendant bond if he believes the defendant will flee the area before his court date if released from jail, or if the judge believes the defendant to be a danger to the community, or both. Sylvester said Artois was a flight risk because he had no fixed address.

Steketee, who presided over the hearing where Artois failed to appear, said Monday he was unaware another judge had denied Artois bond before he granted it.

In an e-mail prosecutors intercepted, Artois wrote that he was living out of his car on the street, Sylvester said. After the hearing, Sylvester said Artois had written the e-mail to a woman in California to whom he was trying to give one or more of his dogs.

Artois is also under investigation for fraud, according to a search warrant filed in Circuit Court in April. Artois admitted soliciting funds for his animal shelter while claiming non-profit status he did not have, according to the search warrant. He also admitted using the donations for personal use though he filed paperwork for food stamps stating he had no income.

Ward said he did not know anything about the possible fraud charge.

"I did have discussions with the Commonwealth's Attorney about the possibility of other charges. At this moment, I don't know where that investigation stands," Ward said.

Artois is scheduled for a trial June 1 on the animal abuse charges. Animal control authorities have also asked the court to give the county ownership of the animals in a civil hearing scheduled June 1.

Steketee issued a warrant for Artois' arrest Monday. The Alexandria commissioner of accounts has also issued a warrant for Artois' arrest in regard to a civil matter, Sylvester said.

Artois is a white male with brown eyes and hair. He is described in court documents as 5-feet, 8-inches tall and weighing 160 pounds. It is suspected Artois is driving a 1997 Ford Expedition sport utility vehicle.
Source: Potomac News - May 24, 2005
Update posted on May 24, 2005 - 8:55PM 
Robert Artois, self-proclaimed wolf-dog expert and founder of Black Wolf Rescue, has been charged with 28 counts of animal cruelty, a Class 1 misdemeanor.

On April 18, a search warrant was issued for Robert Clifton Artois, 57, of Triangle, Va., said First Sgt. Kim Chinn, a spokeswoman for the Prince William Police Department.

Chinn said, "Animal control received information that there were several dogs at this residence that were not well cared for and they did find 28 live dogs and one carcass of a dog at this location. They all had inadequate water, food, sanitary habitat and veterinary care.

"All dogs were seized and are currently being held at the Prince William County Animal Control Bureau Shelter," Chinn went on. "They have received veterinary care. They were evaluated immediately and then evaluated again after the immediate check for further down-the-line kind of problems that they might anticipate. We're taking care of parasite problems and all kinds of things like that."

Artois' next court date is June 1. He is being held at the Prince William Adult Detention Center.
Update posted on May 4, 2005 - 7:08AM 


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