ARK Animal Rescue Saves Abandoned Dogs & Cats
DeLand FL Staff and Cops Raid ARK 
 Steal Animals & Medicines


The Conspiracy Unfolds

Conspiracy: “An evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in Secret...

a plot; an agreement…to commit a crime, or other wrongful act.…” -- Webster’s Dictionary

The following detailed account, meticulously researched and documented, is long. However, if the reader desires to learn the “truth,” we invite you to proceed.

Scene 1 – 2012: The Treacherous Timeline

May 20 - ARK offered shelter to a homeless couple, Daniel and Jennifer Johnson. Jennifer was on disability and Daniel recently lost his job. They had volunteered for ARK prior to their misfortune. Unknown at the time to ARK Board Members Daniel was a registered sex offender (not a sexual predator).

June 12 - Yohana Sanchez, DeLand Detective, was alerted to Johnson’s new location when he registered the Center as his address. Sanchez notified ARK’s Center Coordinator Paula Logan that he was at the Center illegally due to its location near a day care, City Ordinance 2005-58.[1]

        ARK President, Maggi Hall, contacted Barbara Sprague with the Florida Action Committee, a group protecting the rights of felons, to ascertain Johnson’s situation. Sprague assured Hall that Johnson should never have registered in the state and that his conviction, 20 years earlier in another state, had been a vendetta instigated by Johnson’s nephew. Eventually the nephew confessed to Johnson’s innocence but once on the registry it is almost impossible to be removed. Johnson, in his early twenties, frightened of incarceration, was encouraged by his attorney to plead guilty for a lesser sentence. Foolishly, Johnson followed the advice, pled guilty for a crime he did not commit, and served three months in prison. ARK’s Board was comfortable with Johnson caring for animals.[2]

June 14 – Police Chief Bill Ridgeway emailed Hall requesting she be available for a workshop “to speak before the city commission in regard to animal control services.... I would like you to be at the meeting and want to make sure you’re available.”[3]

June 27 – Johnson re-registered as a transient but told the sheriff he would continue working at ARK.[4] After his night duties were over Johnson wandered away to sleep elsewhere. With plenty of wooded areas in downtown DeLand the city blossomed with homeless camps. Johnson was within his legal right to work at ARK no matter how close to a day care as confirmed by Johnson’s attorney, Tanner Andrews. Johnson, no longer sleeping on site, meant he no longer lived there.

July 5 - Hall met with City Manager Michael Pleus, Chief of Police Bill Ridgeway, and Assistant City Manager Dale Arrington to discuss problems with the city’s Second Chance facility and deaths due to improper care. Hall received numerous complaints from rescue groups regarding Second Chance because people were afraid to contact the police directly. Ridgeway asked Hall not to make public the complaints against the city but privately email him. Hall also suggested they find a mutual facility.[5]

July 11 An anonymous complaint, the first in ARK’s history, was sent to the city.[6] ARK’s new Executive Director Julie Beard and Hall agreed it came from a dismissed volunteer who falsified information to Animal Control Officer Gary Thomas. Thomas concurred with the women and ignored the complaint.

July 12 – But Animal Control Officer, Michelle Realander, decided to investigate anyway. It was the first time she’d been to the Center. Volunteers surmised the “complaint” and “first ever inspection” were connected not to the bogus complaint lodged with Thomas but in connection to Daniel Johnson’s presence at ARK.

        Realander sent ARK her written report filled with unfounded accusations including the lack of proper ventilation in the basement which was, in fact, centrally air conditioned and heated. She complained dogs were in crates inappropriate for their size. Had she been concerned enough to ask why she would have learned they were awaiting transport to the hospital. She noted dogs housed outside were violating an ordinance though the city had known for a year about the situation. Realander stated their barking would disturb ARK’s neighbors: FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital, Stetson University’s Baseball Field, city-owned vacant land to be used for a bus station, and an auto repair shop across a busy highway. Realander was “manufacturing” complaints.[7]

        The News-Journal wrote an article about ARK’s Rescue Center with a photograph of Daniel Johnson and Hudson, a bull mastiff, surrendered to ARK.[8]

July 14 (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Teresa Riggs lodged a complaint with police claiming to have adopted an ARK cat. Police didn’t request proof of adoption or personal identification.) When volunteers found out months later they investigated. No Riggs adopted from ARK and no Riggs ever located.[9]

An unprecedented surveillance of ARK’s Center began with intensive patrolling late at night and during the day; patrol cars parking across the street at the ballpark or the Aamco station.

July 18 – A volunteer for DeLand’s Second Chance contacted Hall asking that she let the city know medications should be given ill animals at its facility. Hall emailed Chief Ridgeway regarding same.[10]

July 19 – Ridgeway emailed Hall that he’d spoken with Deputy Chief Randel Henderson and that meds would be administered from this point forward to sick animals though there was a claim from another officer that meds were being administered.[11]

July 24 – Michelle Realander re-appeared to re-inspect, led through the building by Executive Director Julie Beard. In her statement Realander wrote: “Maggie Hall and Julie Beard both spoke to Officer Realander advising they were sorry and unaware of how bad the conditions had gotten.”[12]

        The conditions weren’t bad and Realander never spoke with Hall. Volunteers learned Realander’s early morning visits were intentional so she’d arrive before litter boxes were scooped or outdoor kennels cleaned. No rescue facility opened before cleaning chores were complete. Realander knew what she was doing.[13]

July 25 – Irate over the inspections and exaggerations by Realander, Hall emailed Manager Michael Pleus stating: “ARK has its ups and downs because we are the trash receptacle for DeLand’s abandoned animals. We are overrun. We are broke. We are exhausted.... Our animals are fed well and medicated constantly.... Our medical bills...astronomical....”[14] Pleus’ response: “Thank you Maggi. Don’t lose faith. You do good work! mpp.” [15]

        An Emergency Posting from Second Chance that afternoon stated the following: “A thank you goes out to Ms. Maggi Hall and ARK for receiving a dog last night on short notice. Second Chance was at capacity and a possibly aggressive, abandoned dog was reported. Second Chance had no available cage space and Ms. Hall willingly accepted the animal.”[16]

July 27 – Another complaint against Second Chance came to Hall via email from Second Chance volunteer, Jan Potter. Hall forwarded it to Assistant Manager Dale Arrington. The police weren’t allowing potential adopters to look at animals at Second Chance, which volunteers pointed out was ridiculous. But more seriously “...we lost 3 more kittens today...that makes 11 dead in 3 months.”[17] It’s important to note Second Chance animals were dying while ARK had no deaths at its facility.

August 8 – Hall emailed Chief Ridgeway to inform him of an upper respiratory outbreak at Second Chance and to say that ARK was experiencing the same problem including an intestinal disease that claimed three of their cats at the veterinary hospital in Altamonte. “That is heartbreaking. All of our over 70+ cats are being medicated. It is costing us a fortune.”[18] Ridgeway didn’t respond to Hall.

August 12 – Problems at Second Chance continued to escalate with volunteers contacting Hall with complaints, too afraid to contact the police directly for fear of retaliation. With disgust one volunteer emailed that police picked up “a nursing mother...with only one baby and the rest of the litter was left ethical dilemma for us.”[19]

        An article featuring ARK in the News-Journal stated: “Veterinarian Erin Holder, Hall’s daughter and owner of FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital that abuts ARK shelter’s property line, convinced her mother to turn one of her renovated real estate projects into an animal shelter in response to the exploding number of abandoned animals found in the veterinary hospital’s courtyard each morning. ‘There’d be dogs tied to the fence, kittens in boxes without food, water, or even air holes. They were all sick....’ With previous experience in creating foundations in other fields, Hall dove right in. The result is a home-like facility staffed by volunteers and supplemented by a network of foster homes where animals are socialized and given rehabilitative care they wouldn’t receive in a group setting. The center budgeted at $135,000 a year, but when things get tough, Hall’s personal checkbook is often tapped.”[20]

August 14 – Second Chance requested ARK take two additional pit bulls, Shiloh and Peanut. After Hall sent ARK’s dog behaviorist to Second Chance to evaluate them the behaviorist suggested Shiloh remain at Second Chance and have a volunteer work with him. Second Chance had only 4 dogs; ARK had over a dozen including Peanut which ARK took from Second Chance.

August 17 – Hall contacted Chief Ridgeway to let him know Shiloh was receiving training and ARK would eventually take him. Ridgeway responded, “Thanks Maggi.”[21]

August 20 – ARK received another aggressive dog from Second Chance. Chief Ridgeway wrote Hall, “Thanks Maggi. I appreciate you taking ‘Bart.’ Just to clarify, when Sgt. McWhorter informed me that he was showing significant signs of aggression, to the point that our Animal Control and Care Officers were in fear to even attempt to feed him, I instructed McWhorter to contact you personally. I am the one that said if we were unable to care for the animal it would have to be euthanized that day. I’m very glad that your group was able to take him and is making progress with him, this is how the program is supposed to work, I view it as a success. ...When you’re back in town and have some time, please call, I’d like to meet in person still to discuss the program.”[22]

August 28 – Chief Ridgeway emailed Hall and Assistant Manager Dale Arrington regarding the meeting with commissioners where he and Arrington wanted Hall to speak. “I believe it is set for October 23. Dale, can you confirm the date and time?”[23]

September 5 – (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Detective Sanchez was sending out tentacles to prove Daniel Johnson was residing at the Center in violation of the ordinance against sex offenders. She obtained a statement from Steven Swallows who “claimed” to have adopted a puppy from ARK. He wrote, “...I asked if I could bring the dog after work and Daniel said he lived at the ARK location so I could bring the dog anytime... [for shots and neutering.]”)[24]

        The above was a false statement on two counts: Swallows never adopted from ARK and veterinarians sterilize and give rabies shots. Animals were never left at ARK for these services. Sanchez wasn’t interested in the truth; she wanted to prove any way she could that Johnson was residing at the Center.

        (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Karen Clark was behind Swallow’s “claim.” In Sanchez’s report she stated: “Clark advised that she did not have firsthand information...but she could speak with a Steve Swallows who had firsthand knowledge. Clark advised that Daniel Johnson told Steve Swallows that he was living at ARK in the second floor of the business. Clark stated that a special occupancy license is needed for people to live in the same place animals are kept. Clark stated that there was another man whom she believed to be a sex offender also, Matt Crawford, living in the basement of the business.

        Clark stated that the basement was in no living conditions for animals nevertheless a human [Clark never set foot in the Center]. Clark stated that Maggie Hall had sent out an email to her board advising that ‘Matt’ was moving into the basement. Clark also advised that Maggie Hall had also sent out an email stating that she got around the Deland city ordinance by having Daniel Johnson register as a ‘transient.’”)[25] No email was ever forthcoming as proof from Sanchez or Clark. And Matt Crawford was not a registered sex offender.

September 18 – Hall emailed Ridgeway requesting the city stop picking up feral cats because they were becoming ill and dying at Second Chance. Ridgeway responded back that he hoped these types of issues would be clarified at the commission workshop where Hall was to speak.[26]

September 20 – ARK held a car wash and adoption event at the Center. The News-Journal covered the successful event reporting: “...One of their first customers donated $100 for the car wash, and wrote a check for $1,000 to the shelter.” (The donor, Judy Thompson, a prominent resident, was impressed with the facility and animal care - two weeks prior to the raid.)

        One volunteer told the paper, “Every animal you see would be dead if we didn’t exist.... Some...have special needs. Hudson, a huge mastiff, came to ARK about six weeks ago...heartworm positive – the cost to treat him was $200.”[27]

October 8 – (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Detective Sanchez filled out an affidavit stating, “The undersigned [Sanchez] certifies and swears that there is probably cause to believe the above named defendant [Margaret Hall] on the 5th day of September 2012...did violate Deland City Ordinance 2005-58 which prohibits Property Owners from renting real property to certain sexual offenders....” [Hall didn’t own the building; facts consistently incorrect with the city as it attempted to build a case.]

        Sanchez’ report was dated October 8 2012 though she had entries dated October 31. The charging affidavit was not submitted to the 7th Judicial Circuit until November 21, 2012, two days after the hearing regarding the dispersal of ARK’s property and the city’s promise to work with ARK to save animals.)[28]

October 10 – The News-Journal announced ARK’s adoption event at the Center. “The group will be waiving its usual adoption fees for kittens, adult cats and dogs over 40 pounds.”[29]

        That same day Gary Thomas, animal control officer, sent a news release to city officials and shelters stating, “A purge of four (4) dogs will be necessary if foster or permanent homes aren’t found within the next 24 hours. THANK YOU to ARK for taking two (2) of the dogs but we still need to remove two (2) more.”[30]

        The immediate response to Thomas’ email from Chief Ridgeway to Hall was, “Thanks for taking two, I really appreciate it. I hope we can find homes ASAP for the remaining ones. Also, don’t forget the meeting on the 22nd, I look forward to seeing you there.”[31]

        (Both Gary Thomas and Ridgeway failed to write that Gloria Thomas, Director of the decadent West Volusia Humane Society, told Ridgeway to “get those dogs out of here, now!”[32] Her facility was often used to drop off dogs.)

October 12 – Outraged over Thomas’ use of the word “purge” meaning “to kill” Hall emailed Chief Ridgeway with copies to city staff and commissioners. She reminded them she personally made a promise there would be no further killing of healthy animals if they started Second Chance – and there had been none. Hall wrote: “Our building has over 25 dogs; three fourths of those dogs were abandoned in the City. These are your dogs. They are ours now. We make room, we find fosters. We don’t even think about KILLING.... As I have mentioned numerous times animal control really needs to be removed from the police department. The police need to be doing criminal and safety work.”[33]

        (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Gary Thomas documented a complaint against ARK by “Ann” claiming “possible dog abuse” at ARK. Thomas stated in the complaint, “I made several attempts to contact Ann at the number provided, however she called back and requested I stop calling her that I must have been given the wrong number.”[34]) Here is another indication that someone was making a complaint with a false name. No Ann came to ARK; her name wasn’t on the mandatory sign-in sheet.

October 15 - Hall fired Matt Crawford, a live-in volunteer who refused to follow animal care protocol and was caught stealing.[35]

October 16 – (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Chief Ridgeway emailed Manager Pleus: “I spoke with Maggi today and was able to clarify my email with her. We had a very positive conversation and she asked that I invite Miguel from Halifax Humane Society to Monday’s workshop. I already contacted him and he will be there.”

        He went on to explain that he and Hall had come to an understanding that Thomas was not to call Hall requesting dogs be picked up; that Hall wanted either the Chief or Deputy Chief Randel Henderson to call. “I told her that we apparently didn’t clearly communicate together and I feel we are both satisfied at this time with that situation.”

        Ridgeway continued, “...two calls for service in regard to people wanting to complain about animal cruelty and/or the inhumane care of animals occurring at ARK.... I’ll forward them to you as well just as FYI. Since it is potentially an open complaint, please don’t disseminate.... We will investigate appropriately after we have all of the facts.”)[36]

        Why weren’t complaints, simultaneously and anonymously lodged against ARK, delivered to ARK? Why the obvious cover up by the city?

October 18 – (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Lisa Cordova visited the police station to complain about ARK and Hall. She was fostering to adopt two dogs and refused to pay the adoption fee or return them for vetting. Exaggerating the situation Cordova claimed she was in fear of her life.[37]

        Intrigued by the complaint Deputy Chief Henderson and Gary Thomas began emails back and forth with Henderson writing, “I’m interested to learn more....” and Thomas responding back, “I’ll fill you in tomorrow. Morning.”)[38]

        ARK had a legal right to reclaim the dogs, warning Cordova and other rescue groups that she couldn’t be trusted. ARK never regained possession of the dogs; Cordova stole them. ARK’s only recourse was an expensive civil suit. More importantly if Henderson were so “intrigued” why didn’t he pick up the phone and call Hall? He called her all the time about taking aggressive dogs.

October 19 – (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Gary Thomas filed a complaint submitted by Jean Deleon who claimed there were sick animals at ARK. Thomas turned the calls over to Sergeant McWhorter. There was no identifying information taken by McWhorter.)[39]

October 20 – (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Lisa Cordova forwarded an email from Hall to Gary Thomas who sent it to Chief Ridgeway and Manager Pleus. Ridgeway wrote Pleus: “I didn’t see you, Dale, or the Commissioners on this e-mail list. Thought you should have this information.” Pleus responded, “Let’s brief Bob [the mayor] around 9:30am this morning. My office.”)[40]

October 23 – Deryk Ford, a person Hall didn’t know, emailed her and copied to Bob Baird, cat rescuer who ARK repeatedly assisted. (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Baird forwarded it to Deputy Chief Randel Henderson.) Ford’s political rant was addressing a “Support Obama” sign volunteers legally placed in the front yard of the Center. He wrote, “ your display of support for Obama and his reckless polices that have added six trillion dollars to our debt and reduced the quality of life for so many....forcing them to abandon pets, you are alienating at least 50% of potential clients....”[41]

        Certainly not a coincidence, Michelle Realander and Mark Ellison, Code Enforcers, reappeared for another inspection. Amazingly, the city ignored serious code violations and numerous abandoned buildings and safety hazards throughout the city but were determined to “get” something on ARK – anything.

        On leaving Realander turned to Johnson and said “Get rid of that dog kennel and “the Obama sign,”[42] her demand a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

        That afternoon Center tenant Jennifer Johnson, Daniel’s wife, was called on her cell by Detective Sanchez, demanding her presence at the police station. No one had Johnson’s number except ARK and Matt Crawford, the volunteer fired earlier that week.

        Sanchez told Johnson several lies to intimidate her: (1) Maggi Hall calls you her slaves; (2) I have an email from Hall saying she got your husband to file as a transient so he could stay there; (3) I have evidence he’s living at the Center. Months later after requesting public record documents the city was unable to hand over any proof to substantiate what Sanchez had claimed. In fact the recording that was obtained shows unbelievable coercion and lack of respect for Mrs. Johnson. Sanchez closed her interview with Johnson by saying, “Tell Maggi she’s going to get in trouble for harboring a sex offender.”[43]

        Since no board member contacted Sanchez and the only other person having Johnson’s number was Crawford, it appeared Crawford contacted Sanchez in retaliation. A police officer at the taped interrogation asked Johnson if Crawford was still living there. The only way he would have known the volunteer’s name or that he had lived at the Center was if Crawford had told him. Johnson never mentioned his name.[44]

        (UNKNOWN TO ARK: “Dukesworld” emailed the police claiming to be an ARK volunteer expressing “concerns” for the welfare of the animals. Sergeant McWhorter continued a conversation with Dukesworld for several days thereafter, even thanking the writer for her/his concern.)[45] When documents were released for the hearing ARK volunteers thought Dukesworld emails were from Matt Thomas they were so illiterate.

        That evening after being “warned” by Detective Sanchez that she was going to “get into trouble for harboring a sex offender,” Maggi Hall, at the request of Chief Ridgeway and Assistant Manager Arrington, presented to the commission the need for revamping its rescue program. Does it make sense that two weeks prior to the RAID when city employees secretly were amassing “documents” against ARK and Hall that Ridgeway and Arrington requested she speak?

        At Hall’s request Ridgeway invited Miguel Abi-hassan, Halifax Humane Society Director, to present a slide shown on reducing the free roaming cat population. Then Hall submitted ARK’s 2012 budget to date, $135K[46] ending with the offer, supported by Chief Ridgeway, that ARK run Second Chance at its present location until a new facility was located, annually saving tens of thousands of dollars.

        Positive discussion followed with the mayor, commissioners, Ridgeway, and Hall. City Manager Pleus interjected that ARK took a severely abused dog from Second Chance, trained him, then adopted him to a family in Tampa. “Don’t forget Shiloh!” Pleus exclaimed with pride.[47]

        Hall mentioned, as she had numerous times, that ARK had live-in tenants and dozens of volunteers, including community service people, to care for the 100 animals on site. She brought the tenants with her to the meeting. ARK, two blocks from the police station and city hall was hiding nothing. The Johnsons came as well as Jim Brown and his wife.

        Then Karen Clark stood to lodge complaints against ARK though never having stepped foot on the property and knowing nothing about its operation. But Clark lived down the street from the West Volusia Humane Society, and was friends with its director, Gloria Thomas, wife of DeLand’s animal control officer. Clark and Thomas knew a group of concerned citizens documented, sign their names, and made public proven atrocities at the West Volusia Humane Society (Below) through a blog.[48]

        After Clark’s mean spirited tirade against ARK the commissioners voted unanimously to undertake a study on increasing protection of abandoned cats as well as consider an outside rescue group running Second Chance. ARK volunteers would not learn for a year how involved Clark was in attempting to destroy ARK.

        The News-Journal reported on the workshop. “Most of the increased load comes as a result of the weak economy, officials said. Euthanasia of healthy animals has been avoided thanks to the extreme efforts of local animal rescue groups-often at the 11th hour, Ridgeway said.... Maggi Hall, who heads ARK, one of the larger rescue groups in DeLand, spoke to commissioners outlining a proposal to have ARK operate the Second Chance shelter for a year, while the city decides on a more permanent course of action....”[49]

October 24 – Hall emailed the commissioners and staff reminding them that if ARK ran Second Chance there would be no monetary gain for ARK. She mentioned ARK had three people living there; Jennifer Johnson, Matt Crawford, (she meant Jim Brown and his wife), making three, and Daniel the night watchman. 

        (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Hall’s mistake in her email caused quite an excited stir among staff. It was forwarded to Sergeant McWhorter who immediately sent it to Detective Sanchez.)[50] City officials thought they found the “smoking gun” by way of Hall’s email. They had their man and proof Johnson was living there or so they thought.

        Back marched Michelle Realander and Mark Ellison for another inspection. They questioned Daniel Johnson as to who lived on site. Realander and Ellison weren’t there to inspect the animals; they were there to prove Johnson lived at the Center.[51]

        After their visit Johnson called Hall who then emailed Manager Pleus and Assistant Manager Arrington, complaining of the continued harassment. “I have asked...Michelle, who is rude and heavy handed [Several of Hall’s real estate clients had trouble with Realander and her rudeness.]...and comes in and threatens our volunteers who know nothing, to put in writing what we are ‘doing wrong.’ She has not. That was weeks ago. Now she is on the property videotaping signs and banners and animals and saying no animals are allowed outside on porches. Why not? They get walked 5-8 times a day, run in the vacant field, and get sunshine.... You know me well enough to know I don’t break the law and always try to do what is right. Scaring volunteers isn’t the city’s way of doing business.”[52] Animals not allowed on the porch was a new trumped up complaint! At that point ARK’s Board should have hired an attorney.

        (UNKNOWN TO ARK: The email from Hall to Pleus and Arrington became of great concern to the city.

                    Arrington to Adair: FYI. I do not know if you received this or not.

                    Adair to Arrington: I did not receive this until now, I am going to forward this over to

                    the PD. The PD had asked Michelle to make a site visit today. Mark accompanied her.

                    Adair to Henderson, Batten, McWhorter, Realander, Ellison: Please see below the

                    e-mail from Dale received from Maggie Hall.

                    Henderson to Arrington, Batten, Adair: The procedural action was caused by numerous

                    complaints that have been received surrounding claims of abuse/cruelty and the unsanitary                      complaint was made during a recorded interview obtained yesterday

                    by a detective, and several were received via web A&A. Any claims of abuse or cruelty to

                    animals require a follow-up to either confirm or unfound the allegations....

                    Arrington to Henderson, Batten, Adair: My big concern is that we give a good response

                    to Maggie. I think that we (Matt, Michelle, you and I) need to sit down tomorrow to figure

                    out the response on this. Maggie indicates that Michelle was ‘on the property videotaping

                    signs and banners and animals’ not the alleged abuse, cruelty and unsanitary conditions

                    of the ARK building. I guess this is confusing since Michelle has multiple roles.... Could

                    we discuss this tomorrow morning? I am available between 8:15 and 11:00.)[53]

October 26 - DeLand’s Animal Control Officer Gary Thomas, an ARK award recipient, called the Center during an adopt event and asked to speak to Daniel Johnson. When Johnson answered the phone Thomas “forgot” why he called and hung up. Within minutes two patrol cars roared into ARK’s parking lot, three officers stormed the building, handcuffed Johnson in front of over 20 ARK patrons and marched him to the squad car. The accusation: Johnson failed to register as a sex offender. The truth: Johnson did register as a legal transient sex offender because he no longer lived at the Center and had proof from the sheriff’s office![54]

        The police arrested Daniel Johnson for failure to register though he had and Detective Sanchez knew it because she’d received in June a letter from the sheriff’s department. The police acted illegally but they didn’t care. Johnson had a lawsuit against the city but once arrested and knowing the police acted illegally, that silences the innocent. It’s called intimidation. The city brought shame on itself with the intent to embarrass Johnson and ARK, hoping the falsely accused sex offender would get out of their town.

        DeLand’s Assistant Manager, Dale Arrington, called Hall, who was in Louisiana, to notify her of the arrest. Arrington offered to send city employees to care for the animals. Hall thanked Arrington but said ARK had plenty of volunteers. Arrington revealed two complaints against ARK came in a few weeks earlier; the first Hall learned of complaints other than the bogus one in July.

        When Arrington mentioned the names of the “detractors” Hall said she’d never heard of them, then remarked, “Dale, I think there’s a conspiracy against ARK” to which Arrington replied, “Maggi, I think you may be right.” [55]

October 27 – Realander arrived for yet another inspection, giving nothing to ARK in writing or even a verbal warning regarding the welfare of the animals.

        Linda Claussen, ARK Board Member, and Barbara Sprague, Florida Action Committee Representative, paid Johnson’s bail of $200 though the judge had set it at $2,000. The bonds woman remarked to the women, “He never should have been arrested. What’s up with that?”[56]

        Jennifer Johnson emailed Hall to advise that while Johnson was in jail police were patrolling the Center day and night, driving through the vacant field on the north side of the building. She also noted Matt Crawford’s brother was loitering outside the Center though he lived miles away.[57]

October 29 – (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Michelle Realander emailed Officer McWorther, “I don’t think we need to confiscate all of the animals at this time; however a stern warning / Notice with a re-inspection would be sufficient....[58]

        McWhorter emailed the anonymous “Dukesworld,” assuring the person “investigating ARK” continued. “Dukesworld” responded “things were improving there.”)[59]

        Realander never warned ARK verbally or in writing that its animals were not being properly cared for. Had she done so she would have had to prove her claim or falsify her report.

October 30 – (UNKNOWN TO ARK: The city was trying to build a case of animal cruelty because the police couldn’t build a case proving Daniel Johnson resided at the Center. Emails flew between Realander, Deputy Chief Randel Henderson, Sergeant McWorther, and Code Enforcer Mark Ellison: “Did you notice if the upper cages had a floor of some sort to catch fecal matter or urine so it didn’t drop into the lower cage? Same for cats?” to which Realander replied, “Yes, Sir, all of the dog crates had a floor. This however does not prevent the urine/feces from reaching the underneath cage, if the upper dog is moving around.”

        Then a repeat. “During your inspection and reference [sic] the stacked dog cages. Did you notice if the upper cages had a floor of some sort to catch fecal matter or urine so it didn’t drop into the lower cage? Same for cats?”)[60] They failed to mention ARK provided new plush beds for all kennel dogs.

October 31 - While the secret hunt to prove cruelty progressed with a vengeance, Hall met with Assistant Manager Dale Arrington and Acting Police Chief Batten to discuss possible sites for a mutual rescue facility. Batten admitted drywalls at Second Chance had to be replaced because of the stench from housing animals in a small enclosed area devoid of sunlight and fresh air. The city was attempting to prove ARK was abusing animals yet Second Chance was breaking state animal care laws.

          Hall complained to Batten that ARK volunteers were being spied on, adding “I registered my dogs so you can’t get me.” She also said Detective Sanchez harassed a volunteer, desperately visiting her home in DeBary and frightening the volunteer’s son when he refused to tell Sanchez where his mother was working.[61] Sanchez scurried from city to city tracking down ARK volunteers to question, “Was Daniel Johnson sleeping at the Center?” [62]

          Batten didn’t bat an eye when Hall complained, responding, “Sanchez thinks Johnson is living there because he’s taking showers.” Hall asked for proof. Batten was unable to supply it.

          Sanchez was desperate to pin Johnson’s location day and night at ARK. Around the clock police surveillance, claims of showering, Sanchez driving all over the county evidenced things were crazy with DeLand’s police and a total waste of public funds. What was really going on? An investigation of animal abuse or simply an excuse to prove Johnson was living permanently at ARK’s Center?

        That afternoon Arrington emailed Hall with questions about the property they’d discussed. Hall called the real estate listing agent then responded back to Arrington. Located three blocks from city hall, the property would have been ideal for an animal shelter.[63]

November 1 – Per Hall’s request, ARK Board Member Kim Eastin emailed Gloria Thomas, over twenty years director of the rundown mostly vacant West Volusia Humane Society. The offer was for ARK to pay Thomas $1,000 a month to use her dilapidated facility so ARK could move from its present location.

        (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Thomas forwarded the email to her husband, the city’s animal control officer, who then forwarded it to the police department.)[64]

November 5 – (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Another “complaint” rolled in to the police from “Lisa Stearns” who had no connection to ARK. The police didn’t require she come to the station to document her complaint.)[65] Several months earlier Chief Ridgeway demanded that all complaints regarding the city’s Second Chance must be placed in writing at the police station, signed by the person lodging the complaint. That put a swift end to complaints; fearing police retribution is a good silencer.

        Incredibly that same day and knowing that he and his crew were scrounging around for “proof” ARK and Hall were abusing animals, Deputy Chief Henderson, helping with the investigation against ARK, called Hall requesting ARK take yet another dog that bit an officer. As usual Hall agreed.

November 6 - Two days prior to the RAID animal control officer Gary Thomas delivered the city’s biter to ARK. Thomas refused to take the dog to the building, did not bring the paperwork, and remained beside his truck at the edge of the street, warning the volunteer, “That dog is vicious.”[66]

        (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Thomas, having never left his truck parked at the road, never going to the Center, placed in writing at the police station that ARK’s dogs had no food or water.)[67]

        A few hours later Detective Sanchez roared into the Center and marched defiantly into the building with a subpoena. “I want copies of ARK’s volunteer forms since July,” she demanded. Jennifer Johnson told Sanchez she didn’t have authorization. Sanchez left the subpoena, promising to return the next day.[68] As Sanchez walked out she encountered a kenneled dog with diarrhea. Sanchez pulled out her camera and recorded the scene, evidently desperate for “proof” of cruelty.[69]

        After Sanchez stormed away Johnson went to Daniel Johnson’s attorney, Tanner Andrews. Andrews wrote a “Motion to Quash” the subpoena instructing Johnson to hand it to Sanchez when she returned.[70] (Andrews later confirmed when ARK cooperated, because it had nothing to hide, and gave Sanchez the forms, Sanchez called parents of females under 18 to ascertain if the registered sex offender had inappropriately touched their daughters. Sanchez got nothing from her obsessive witch hunt.)[71]

        Dr. Holder, veterinarian and owner of FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital located adjacent to ARK, visited the Center to exam the cats in isolation. She reported to her mother, Maggi Hall, that none needed to be hospitalized. [72]

        That afternoon Julie Osborne, Daytona Beach attorney and animal rescue advocate, visited ARK for the first time. She was impressed with the facility and the care of the animals. She called Hall to exclaim how impressed she was – and “with so many animals – all were well cared for.”[73]

November 7 – Eastin emailed Thomas nudging her for a decision. Thomas replied, “Unfortunately, I have received the directors [sic] decision and they said that they will pass on your proposal.” ARK’s Board got a laugh out of her “directors’ decision” response knowing Thomas and her two women board did nothing. Had Thomas partnered with ARK it would have endangered Thomas’ financial “set-up” and revealed the truth about what was happening at her “shelter.”

        (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Thomas forwarded the email to husband Gary who forwarded to police.) [74]

Detective Yohana Sanchez reappeared as promised the day before. Jennifer Johnson handed her the attorney’s document. Sanchez glanced at it and raged, “This isn’t what I came for” and stalked away.[75]

        (UNKNOWN TO ARK: A city employee visited ARK to take numerous photographs of the animals evidently for proof of abuse.)[76] In reality over a year later when ARK received a copy of the photos taken they depicted healthy looking animals in clean cages with food and water. These photographs did not appear in court for the public hearing.

        (UNKNOWN TO ARK: After the departure of the empty-handed Sanchez, Michelle Realander flew into action, obtaining an even more insidious document than Sanchez’s subpoena; Realander acquired a search warrant accusing ARK of animal cruelty.[77]

        (UNKNOWN TO ARK: Late that evening a city employee surreptitiously visited ARK to photograph outside dogs.)[78] The photo (L) was taken late at night. Note the security light shining on the cages and the dogs’ eyes glowing. The cages were under a large roof, protected from rain; the igloo at the rear in an open dog run. ARK had $250 igloos in ten outdoor kennels. The cages and kennel are clean; no poop, no urine. Large beds were in each kennel.

        The photograph taken the night before the raid speaks the truth. Taken late at night, within hours of the RAID, there was no evidence of cruelty; no photographs, no witnesses, no documentation, no warnings, no fines against ARK – nothing – yet violent city staffers maliciously set their sights for destruction. 

[1] City of DeLand Police Dept., 6.12.12

[2] Email and conversation from Sprague to Hall, 6.13.12

[3] Email to hall from Ridgeway, 6.14.12

[4] Email to Detective Sanchez from Volusia Co. Sheriff’s Office, 6.27.12

[5] Presentation by Hall to Pleus, Arrington, Ridgeway, 7.5.12

[6] Anonymous complaint to city, 7.11.12

[7] Letter to ARK from Realander, 7.12.12

[8] “DeLand shelter sees more large dogs coming in,” News-Journal , 7.12.12

[9] DeLand Police Department Narrative from Riggs taken by Jessica Mayo, 7.14.12

[10] Email to Hall from Potter then forwarded from Hall to Ridgeway, 7.17.12

[11] Email to Hall from Ridgeway, 7.19.12

[12] Email to police from Realander, 7.24.12

[13] Documents obtained through the Florida Sunshine Law, 2.14

[14] Email from Hall to Pleus, 7.25.12

[15] Email from Pleus to Hall, 7.25.12

[16] Email from Thomas to animal rescue groups and city employees, 7.25.12

[17] Email from Potter to Hall and forwarded from Hall to Arrington, 7.27.12

[18] Email from Hall to Ridgeway, 8.7.12

[19] Email to Hall from “a concerned volunteer and taxpayer” then forwarded to Ridgeway, 8.12.12

[20] “ARK Animal Rescue Center,” News-Journal, 8.12.12

[21] Emails between Hall and Ridgeway, 8.17.12

[22] Email from Ridgeway to Hall, 8.20.12

[23] Email from Ridgeway to Hall and Arrington, 8.28.12

[24] Voluntary Witness Statement from Swallows to Sanchez, 9.5.12

[25] 7th Judicial Circuit 707 Charging Affidavit – Volusia, Sanchez, 10.25.12

[26] Emails between Hall and Ridgeway, 9.18.12

[27] “Rescue group’s mutts strut for a cause,” News-Journal, 9.20.12

[28] 7th Judicial Circuit 707, charging Affidavit – Volusia, filed by Sanchez 10.8.12

[29] “DeLand pet adoption this Saturday waives fees,” News-Journal, 10.10.12

[30] Email to city officials and rescues from Thomas, 10.10.12

[31] Email from Ridgeway to Hall, 10.10.12; Email from Thomas to rescue groups, 10.10.12

[32] As told to Hall by Ridgeway though he refused to place Thomas’ remarks in writing, 10.10.12

[33] Email from Hall to city staff and commissioners, 10.12.12

[34] DeLand Police Department Narrative, Animal Control Officer Thomas, 10.12.12.

[35] Letter to Crawford from Hall stating reasons for dismissal, 10.16.12

[36] Email from Ridgeway to Pleus, 10.16.12

[37] ARS Narrative Report from Cordova to police, 10.18.12

[38] Email from Thomas to Henderson and Henderson’s response to Thomas, 10.18.12

[39] Detailed History Police Event, Joshua Strait then redone by Thomas, 10.19.12

[40] Email from Cordova to Thomas then forwarded to Ridgeway and Pleus and their responses, 10.22.12

[41] Email from Ford to Hall and Baird who then forwarded to Henderson, 10.23.12

[42] Johnson in conversation with Hall, 10.23.12

[43] Sanchez interview with Johnson, 10.23.12

[44] Ibid.

[45] Email from Dukesworld to McWhorter and Henderson, 10.23.12

[46] 2012 ARK budget

[47] Pleus’ comment to commissioners and public, City Commission Minutes, 10.23.12

[49] “DeLand workshop targets overload of stray animals,” News-Journal , 10.23.12

[50] Email from Hall to commissioners who sent to McWhorter who sent to Sanchez, 10.24.12

[51] Email from Realander to McWhorter, Adair, Ellison, 10.24.12

[52] Email from Hall to Pleus and Arrington, 10.24.12

[53] Emails between Arrington, Adair, McWhorter, Batten, Ellison 10.24.12

[54] Email from V.C. Sheriff’s Department to Sanchez, 6.27.12

[55] Conversation on speaker phone overheard by Dr. Ronald Hall, Shreveport, LA, 10.26.12

[56] Interview with Claussen and Sprague, 10.27.12

[57] Email from Johnson to Hall, 10.27.12

[58] Email from Realander to McWhorter, 10.29.12

[59] Emails between McWhorter and Dukesworld, 10.29.12

[60] Emails between Realander, Ellison, Henderson, and McWhorter, 10.30.12

[61] Interview with Claussen and Paula Logan, 10.18.12

[62] Interview with Claussen and Shannon Peoples, former Center tenant fired by Julie Beard, 10.18.12

[63] Emails between Arrington and Hall, 10.31.12

[64] Emails between Eastin and Thomas, 11.1.13

[65] Handwritten complaint from Sterns to police, 11.5.12

[66] In conversation with Hall, 11.6.12

[67] DeLand Police Department, Thomas, 11.7.12

[68] In the Circuit Court, 7th Judicial, Volusia Co. FL., 11.5.12

[69] Email from Sanchez to McWhorter, 11.7.12

[70] Motion to Quash, Andrews, 11.6.12

[71] Reported to ARK’s attorney, Andrews, by Kim Webb, ARK Board member, regarding her daughter

[72] In conversation with Holder, 11.6.12

[73] Call from Osborne to Hall, 11.6.12

[74] Email from Gloria Thomas to Eastin and forwarded to Gary Thomas who forwarded it to the police, 11.7.12

[75] Interview with Johnson, 11.7.12

[76] Photographs from city, 11.7.12

[77] Search Warrant in the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court, Volusia Co., FL, 11.7.12

[78] Photographs found in the police department’s “White book” kept on ARK and Hall, 11.7.12

Taken late at night notice the dogs are in clean kennels, their eyes glowing in the dark. No poop in kennels or cages; beds for all.

This photograph speaks the truth. Taken within hours of the RAID, there was no evidence of cruelty; no photographs, no witnesses, no documentation, no warnings, no fines against ARK – nothing – yet violent city staffers maliciously set their sights for destruction.

Scene 2 – DeLand’s Day of Infamy: The Violent Raid

“Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.” 

-- Friedrich Schiller

Fascism: “A governmental system…forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting... commerce, and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.” – Webster’s Dictionary

November 8 - Thursday, 8:15am, the day that lives in infamy for the City of DeLand, Michelle Realander (Above) and a dozen city employees invaded ARK search warrant in hand asserting “animal cruelty and confinement of animals” coordinating the event, barking orders to her uniformed army.[1] State Statue 828.12 Cruelty to animals.— (1) A person who unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilates, or kills any animal, or causes the same to be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in § 775.082 or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.[2]

        Shelters don’t open to the public until feeding and cleaning are complete; and for the Kill Shelters, after the carcasses have been removed. It was no coincidence Realander arrived BEFORE CHORES were complete; her timing PREMEDITATED just as every one of her inspections had been.

        Four ARK volunteers were interrupted in their early morning duties.[3] Realander ordered volunteers to cease feeding, medicating, cleaning, and walking animals.[4] They were escorted off the property by Officer Trinity Petrella while Officer Juan Millan videotaped the production.

        A volunteer noted in shock that another officer removed the dog’s beds from their kennels before taping the “evidence” then replacing the beds.[5] Millan’s video, the city’s property, illegally was uploaded to YouTube for the world to see.[6] (The city denies the video on YouTube but it's there.)

        From 8:30am until late into the night Realander didn’t allow medicines to be administered to sick animals. She refused food, fresh water, or exercise. Litter boxes remained full from the night before. Realander refused to allow them cleaned. Kenneled dogs wet beds as volunteers, now increased to eight, pled from behind yellow crime tape to allow them to care for the animals. Continually Realander refused.[7]

        As the RAID progressed helicopters clattered above. Yellow crime tape encircled a half acre corner lot on the main thoroughfare through downtown DeLand. Road blocks cordoned off a street. Four police cars, an animal control truck, eight officers, and the city’s largest fire truck with its hazmat-outfitted three-man crew blazed into action.

        A dozen television, radio, and newspaper teams, alerted in advance, arrived with cameras, microphones, tape recorders, and notepads, ready to record the frenzy. It would be understandable to assume the police had cornered a drug cartel boss. So overwhelming with city vehicles and manpower that bystanders gathering on the perimeter of the property questioned, “Who’s been killed?”

        Whoever ordered the raid, possibly Realander’s boss, Matt Adair, or up the chain of command to Manager Pleus or Assistant Manager Arrington, Chief Ridgeway or Deputy Chief Henderson, none were present during the illegal confiscation of private property. All remained anonymous, secure in their offices far from the atrocity playing out on Woodland Boulevard; bullies in hiding.

        Kim Eastin, ARK Board Member and thirteen year veteran with the Daytona Beach Police Department arrived with Hall, having been called by Center volunteers. As a courtesy for Eastin’s police credentials, an officer escorted her through the Center while Hall, ARK’s Founder and community leader, was banned like a common criminal. After returning to where Hall and board members were standing across the street, Eastin disgustedly reported, “This is bull! Those animals are fine!”[8]

        While crowds gathered and traffic slowed on Woodland Boulevard a dazed Maggi Hall stood across the street phoning Mayor Robert Apgar. “Bob, do you know what the city is doing to our animals?” The mayor claimed to know nothing about a major police raid planned in advance using public funds. Every major news outlet was informed in advance but not the mayor? (A year later when documents were obtained through the Florida Sunshine Law it was discovered Apgar knew far more than his “innocent” reply.)[9]

        “They’re taking them!” Hall cried. Apgar assured Hall he’d investigate and call back. Hours later Hall called Apgar again because he’d not kept his promise. Apgar then claimed to be at city hall with Assistant Manager Arrington learning what he described as the “truth.” Apgar said, “We know your heart is in the right place, but we have proof….” yet failed to reveal the “so-called proof.”[10]

        Receiving no help from Apgar, Hall called Commissioner Leigh Matusick who hugged Hall every time she saw her. Matusick also claimed ignorance but promised to investigate. She wasn’t courteous enough to call back.[11]

        Hall then phoned Deputy Police Chief Randel Henderson who consistently requested ARK take biting dogs and emailed Hall animal stories and photos of his adopted son.

        Hall pled for help. Henderson, who consistently sent Hall emails about animals and his adopted son, coldly responded, “We can’t stop it.”[12]

        Hall called Manager Michael Pleus who was “conveniently” away so she dialed Assistant Manager Dale Arrington who claimed she couldn’t stop the raid, adding “someone” drove by the Center last night when the temperature was around 44. Hall retorted, “Dale, the dogs have huge soft beds and it wasn’t too cold.” Arrington replied, “Oh” as if she’d not heard the truth from her “spy.”[13] Obviously she’d not seen the photos taken the night before showing beds in the kennels - or possibly she didn’t care.

        Hall’s repeated calls throughout the day left on the police answering machine were ignored. Stonewalling was the game the City of DeLand was playing.

        Hall called Tanner Andrews, Daniel Johnson’s attorney, who came to the site and counseled, “Let it take its course.” Miguel Abi-Hassan, Director of Halifax Humane Society phoned advising Hall remain calm and to give support stating he knew ARK wasn’t abusing animals.[14]

        Rushing to the scene were Gloria Thomas and her sidekick, Karen Clark, the only critic at the hearing when Hall offered for ARK to run the city’s Second Chance program. Thomas, wife of DeLand’s Animal Control Officer Gary Thomas, had, for over two decades controlled the West Volusia Humane Society, a facility noted for warehousing animals.[15]

        Hall and FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital attempted several years earlier to save the 90+ animals from West Volusia, offering to pay Thomas $85 each, the majority of the cats and dogs and birds cruelly having lived in cages for up to seven years. When Thomas refused the offer several animal advocates became suspicious and began an investigation.[16]

        A website was created to publicize the shelter’s cruelty, lack of care, few adoptions, and Thomas’ $35,000 salary. It’s easier to hoard than to operate an aggressive adoption program and it’s also more lucrative, especially when the public doesn’t know what’s happening behind closed gates.

        Trixie was refused treatment or adoption and died caged; a slow, lonely death.[17] One volunteer wrote, “One conversation from Gary [Thomas] burns me up. When WVHS was a killing facility (which it still is only the animals die a long slow death) after euthanizing the dogs one day and throwing them out the window they put them in a circle, putting the tails of each dog in the mouth of the dog in front of him or her and leaving them until they became stiff, to make it almost impossible to open their mouths. This was all done to play a joke on one of the workers up there. This is the mentality of some people that represent the City of Deland.”[18]

        Kennel cards proved animals were imprisoned for up to seven years at the WVHS and they still are; this is the place the City of DeLand took ARK’s confiscated animals.[19] Curious why no one cares enough to close the place down and she even had a registered sex offender working and living on site.

        Hall became busy developing ARK and had no time to pursue action against Thomas. It also seemed to Hall everyone was afraid of Thomas including county council members who granted the West Volusia Humane Society the land and even the West Volusia Beacon.[20]

        When Hall went to the shelter with a Beacon reporter, Thomas called the sheriff and had Hall banned from the property.[21] The reporter took photos and rushed back to submit the story. Thomas contacted the editor, threatening a lawsuit if a story was written. That was the last time the paper wrote an article about the place. Intimidation is a sport in DeLand, even frightening the media into silence.

        When the commissioners voted to stop killing animals and open a holding shelter Hall suggested to attorney Elkind and Manager Pleus that the city partner with the West Volusia Humane Society. Hall shared her research, warning Elkind he wouldn’t believe the story but if the city could acquire the property it would be ideal once it was rehabilitated. Elkind did believe Hall and wrote a contract to rent space at the facility. Thomas shrewdly declined. Had she partnered with a public entity her records would be subject to scrutiny.[22]

        Eventually the city paid Thomas to board dogs her husband picked up until ARK had space, yet the city never offered ARK financial support. On numerous occasions Thomas demanded city dogs be removed immediately causing the city to rush to ARK for assistance.

        ARK was under siege by the city it aided yet nothing changed at ARK in two years - nothing except ARK had community service people and a registered sex offender volunteering to feed, walk, and poop scoop DeLand’s abandoned animals.

        Thomas and Clark had no reason to be present at the raid. Throughout the long day Clark scurried from one media outlet to another giving interviews reviling ARK. Though she had never set foot in ARK’s building or assisted with rescue efforts, her intent was to damage ARK as she did with other groups including Journey’s End and veterinarian Rocky Esposito. Wrote one irate citizen, “She [Clark] is a spoiler who causes dissension in every way she can.”[23]

        Indeed, Clark’s voice and face aired repeatedly on television as she swaggered from one media outlet to another celebrating the event. Clark was a “featured” witness testifying to anyone that would jot down what she was saying. To the West Volusia Beacon she railed, “I’ve never been inside the facility, or on the property, but I have friends who are volunteers.... I relied on what they were expressing to me about the conditions inside.”[24]

        While Thomas crouched in her car watching the confusion Clark smirked at Hall, “This is the happiest day of my life. I’ve been waiting a long time for this.” Kim Eastin retorted, “I heard that, Karen.”[25] Hall was stunned silent, unable to fathom the viciousness of Clark and her lack of concern for innocent animals.

        Clark then called Nan Smith, an ARK supporter and Clark acquaintance. “Guess where I am? The parking lot across from ARK watching Maggi’s animals taken away. It’s the greatest day of my life.” Clark “confided” in Smith that she had lodged complaints against ARK and Hall.[26]

        Clark even bragged to Pat Chadwick, reporter for The City Observer, that “she told us that she made one of the complaints even tho' she'd never stepped foot inside ARK. She's from We Help Animals. I'm wondering if the other complaints were from people with We Help Animals, too?”[27]

        Dozens of people were interviewed by the newspapers and television stations defending ARK, saying they’d adopted from there or volunteered there. But the truth didn’t matter to the City of DeLand.

        Hours later Realander called in Erin Gray, two years out of vet school and working at Val-U-Vet. Everyone wondered why she didn’t use the adjacent veterinary hospital, FloridaWild. Gray’s “suspicious” exam took less than a hour for over 100 cats and dogs. Her unproven and undocumented conclusion: All were in desperate shape and needed confiscation. What a profound lie. ARK’s animals were in excellent shape and ready for adoption except the cats in isolation and under FloridaWild’s care.

        By 2pm Realander and her fanatics had contacted kill shelters in Seminole and Flagler, but refused to call Halifax Humane Society 20 miles away probably because city officials knew ARK and HHS were working together and HHS’s director knew there was no cruelty at ARK. When trucks arrived to kidnap ARK’s animals Realander demanded Hall come back on the property, threatening her with “Sign them over. It’ll look better for you in court.”[28]

        Hands trembling, eyes blurred, Hall was coerced into selecting twelve fully vetted highly adoptable dogs and release them in response to Realander’s ultimatum. Jennifer Johnson gave the names of the dogs to kill shelter employees while Realander had the documents Hall sign read twice. It appeared to observers Hall was in shock.[29] When Hall asked Realander why she was doing this Realander replied, “I don’t have to tell you anything or put anything in writing.”[30]

        Realander ordered Hall sign the remainder of the dogs over to the West Volusia Humane Society. When Hall refused, knowing how cruel that place way, Realander ordered Gary Thomas to take the dogs to his wife’s filthy facility. Johnson told Realander that Misty had been adopted and was boarding until pick up the following week and needed to go next door to FloridaWild. Realander refused, knowingly stealing private property. Frightened and handled roughly the dogs were pulled and pushed into the truck and driven away, a scene airing repeatedly on television.

        Realander confiscated another dog not released by Hall. Tiny, frightened, and severely injured, Coco was unable to walk when rescued from the Lake County Kill Shelter the week she was to be exterminated. She was recovering from expensive surgery completed at FloridaWild.[31]

        Realander’s operatives cruelly disallowed Coca to be taken outside to use the bathroom. Eventually she was removed from her then urine saturated kennel to the cold metal surface of a truck and whisked away, no soft bed to cushion her hour long ride. Throughout the long sad day volunteers pled with Realander to allow Coco to use the bathroom. Realander refused. Since Coco was a FloridaWild patient Hall requested Coco be taken to her doctor next door. Realander refused. Realander was not at ARK to save animals.

        As the hours passed cats were brought out into the parking lot in small carriers. When Hall and a volunteer were ordered back on the property Hall took a photo of cats in their clean cages. An officer demanded Hall stop, claiming she was “interfering with a crime scene.” And this was evidence of cruelty? Clean cages? No wonder police refused photos.

        Realander wrote a useless physical description of each cat though Jennifer Johnson begged Realander to let her give their names in order to match them with their medical records.[32] Realander refused. Johnson asked to place an ID on each carrier. Realander refused. Hall told her one of the cats was boarding and needed to go to FloridaWild. Realander refused. (The cat’s owner never located her pet.)[33]

        Hall was coerced into signing away twelve dogs but no cats. ARK’s animals were illegally confiscated by a vindictive city out of control; ARK’s property becoming the city’s contraband.[34]

        As the day wore wretchedly on more rescue groups arrived to take cats. FloridaWild employees observed unattended cats in carriers left in the cold dark parking lot until after 8pm.[35] Not until the following day were the remaining cats, 35, removed from their comfortable Cat Suite. Fifty cats went to a cat rescue group which later notified ARK they were healthy.[36] ARK knew that as did the three veterinarians caring for them.[37]

        It is incomprehensible how the city claimed its actions were in the best interests of the animals when the animals were removed from a no-kill facility and turned over to facilities that exterminated if animals weren’t quickly adopted or warehoused at the West Volusia Humane Society.

        Realander ordered records confiscated: treatment charts, microchip and rabies tags, and notes from former owners. Identifying records were separated from the animals and never followed them to their new locations yet the city proclaimed its need to protect ARK’s abused animals. City staffers were nothing more than vicious thugs.

        Approximately 100 cats and 27 dogs, fully vetted, healthy, except the 30+ felines in isolation, were stolen; their charts, medical records, rabies and microchip tags stolen by DeLand’s Gestapo where they remain today. The city, claiming concern for the welfare of ARK’s animals, never cared enough to reunite the animals with their records much less find out the animals’ names or medical needs.

        The three dozen sick felines in isolation and under FloridaWild’s care were transported to DeLand Animal Hospital rather than taken next door. DeLand Animal Hospital posted on its website that ARK’s severely ill cats needed homes, a bizarre plea since sick cats illegally confiscated from an isolation ward needed to remain isolated, not placed in homes.[38]

        A kitten on a heating pad was ordered removed by Realander and carted away to die at DeLand Animal Hospital, ironically DeLand’s first “rescued” fatality.[39]

        Michelle Realander and the city impounded medicines worth over a thousand dollars. They were never returned to ARK; the city’s confiscation UNCONSTITUTIONAL.[40]

        City officials sent ARK’s animals to the following locations: Seminole Co. - 6; Val-U-Vet - 1; Flagler Co. - 6; WVHS - 14; ARNI - 23; DeLand Animal Hospital - 19; Angels Have Whiskers - 50.[41]

        The story made front-page news in the West Volusia Beacon,[42] the News-Journal[43] newspaper blogs, and TV stations across Florida. ARK had been in business rescuing animals for six years. On numerous occasions DeLand expressed appreciation to ARK, met multiple times with Hall to implement a plan to combine facilities; yet now the city was destroying ARK.

November 9 – (UNKNOWN TO ARK: The search warrant was amended the day after the raid to include a substantial amount of false statements by city personnel.)[44]

        UNKNOWN TO ARK: Friday afternoon the Center was empty; the remaining cats in the Cat Suite were hauled away. Michelle Realander requested Val-U-Vet Erin Gray return to video the “crime scene” as evidence was needed to support the claim of animal cruelty.)[45]

        ARK received dozens of support calls and emails but one of the most astute emails was from another animal rescuer: “Sorry you got F--- by Karen Clark. ...she came after us for years. She is always trying to get rescues that do good...hurt. I think we should look into her rescue....”[46]

[1] Search Warrant in the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court, Volusia Co., FL, and amended search warrant, 11.7.12 signed by

Terence Perkins the day after the raid and signed by James Clayton

[2] Florida State Statute 828.12, Cruelty to Animals

[3] Video taken by Millan and uploaded to YouTube within hours of the raid, 11.8.12

[4] Interviews with Jennifer and Daniel Johnson, and Jim Brown, 11.8.12

[5] Interview with Claussen, 11.8.12

[6] Reported to ARK Board by numerous bystanders, 11.8.12

[7] Interview with Brown, News-Journal, 11.9.12

[8] Interview with Eastin, 11.9.12

[9] Email from Pleus to Ridgeway and Arrington, 1.22.12

[10] Interview with Hall, 11.9.12

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Interview with former volunteers, Judy and Bill Ziegler, 4.10.08

[26] Email from Smith to Hall, 11.9.12

[27] Email from Chadwick t[18] Email from former volunteer Ziegler to Hall, 12.13.12

[19] Photograph of kennel card dated 8.6.02 taken by Hall, 4.12.08

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Email to ARK Board of Directors from Nan Smith, 11.9.12

[24] “Dogs taken from ARK in DeLand placed in homes; help still needed with cats,” West Volusia Beacon, 11.8.12

[25] Interview with Eastin, 11.8.12o Hall, 8.23.13

[28] Interview with Hall, 11.8.12

[29] Interview with Claussen, 11.8.12

[30] Interview with Hall, 11.10.12

[31] FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital medical records, 10.25.12

[32] Interview with Johnson to ARK members, 11.8.12

[33] Interview with Johnson, 11.14.12

[34] Surrendered Animals, Animal Service Division, 11.8.12

[35] Interview with Brittney Hogue, FloridaWild Hospital Administrator, 11.9.12

[36] Cherie of Angels Have Whiskers to Eastin, 11.11.12

[37] Dr. Larkin of Altamonte Veterinary Hospital; Dr. Holder and Dr. Rand from FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital, 11.9.12

[38] DeLand Animal Hospital Facebook blog, 11.10.12

[39] Ibid.

[40] List of medicines confiscated, police department, 11.8.12

[41] City list and dispersal of confiscated animals, 11.9.11

[42] “Dogs taken from ARK animal rescue in DeLand placed in homes,” West Volusia Beacon, 11.8.12

[43] “ARK animal seizure,” News-Journal, 11.9.12

[44] Amended Search Warrant in the 7th Judicial Circuit Court, Volusia Co., FL, James Clayton, 11.9.12

[45] Videotape taken by Realander and Gray, 11.9.12

[46] Email from Kim Grooms to Hall, 11.9.12

L-R: Trixie died without medical treatment at the WV Humane Society; kennel card shows how long an animal languished in a cage at the facility; Misty was adopted but stolen by Michelle Realander, code enforcer, and taken to the WVHS.

Scene 3 – City Staff Trash ARK’s Center

To DeLand City Officials: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.”    -- Gandhi

November 10 - At noon the Center was released to ARK. Kim Eastin, board member and police officer allowed in during the raid, Linda Claussen, board member with camera, and Hall walked onto the porch. Claussen photographed blood on the porch where a cage of kittens had returned three days earlier from being sterilized; their blood evidence of heartless mishandling.[1]

        Screaming silence and devastation suffocated the women: furniture overturned; feces on the table; food and water bowls empty or filled with feces; a food bag torn open and tossed on the floor for cats to fend for themselves; plush new beds drenched in urine. Here was visual proof Michelle Realander and her soldiers cared not at all for the welfare of the animals. The photographs indict DeLand City Hall.

        But the horror that awaited the volunteers when they entered the Cat Suite broke their hearts. Vomit and diarrhea everywhere, proof the cats suffered severe anxiety during the raid. Water bowls empty. Litter boxes so full cats used food bowls, floor, and beds to relieve themselves. Furniture and climbing towers were overturned as Realander’s operatives sought to retrieve frightened cats. The devastation was the result of police violence and the cruel fact that ARK volunteers were intentionally prevented by Michelle Realander to care for the animals under her watch.

        Claussen photographed evidence as Eastin repeated again and again: “I don’t believe this. It wasn’t like this when the police took me through during the raid!”[2]

        One of the most heartless and obscene comments made to the West Volusia Beacon came from Deputy Chief Randel Henderson regarding the cats in their once peaceful Cat Suite. He callously and proudly boasted: "We had a rescue group take possession of an estimated 40 cats. We were jokingly calling the officers corralling the cats “cat wranglers.” I would love to see the video.[3]

        Imagine claiming to be concerned about the animals yet laughing as persecution and misery swept over ARK’s innocent cats as they were chased, caged, and carried away from their once pleasant Cat Suite.

        For every negative comment in the newspapers there were three or more positive ones. People who cared knew the truth. From the day of the raid and throughout November a feeding frenzy of comments were emailed or mailed to city hall and ARK; the majority in support of ARK. The on-line West Volusia Beacon and News-Journal blogs allowed horrific anonymous comments. Folks who wrote with support for ARK signed their names while cowards and liars hid behind anonymity. Newspapers will do anything to sell their rags.

November 12 - ARK volunteers found several dozen cat medical records overlooked by city zealots during the raid. They went to DeLand Animal Hospital to match the cats with their records. The owners of the hospital, Deborah Ulbrich and Thomas MacPhail, denied permission. They also refused to allow volunteers to see the cats. Why would these veterinarians, supposedly professionals devoted to animal welfare, deny the humane request to match animals with their paperwork?[4]

        For several weeks after the raid DeLand Animal Hospital allowed slanderous remarks posted on its blog against ARK, Hall, Dr. Holder, and FloridaWild, though the worst were eventually removed.[5]

        When volunteers visited ARNI in Daytona Beach they discovered the HIV/AIDS kittens isolated in the upstairs bathroom at the Center were mingled with healthy kittens. ARNI never received medical records from the city and chose not to contact ARK. Over the years when ARNI refused animals for surrender employees told those in desperation to call ARK. ARK never refused. The vindictive incompetency and lack of care by city officials endangered the lives of ARNI’s healthy cats by giving them ARK’s HIV/AIDS kittens.[6]

         Karen Clark was quoted in the West Volusia Beacon speaking with authority that she’d never been inside the facility, but complained about overcrowding, sick animals, sick animals being adopted out, improper nutrition, and the failure to give adopters proper paperwork for their dogs.[7]

        (UNKNOWN TO ARK: One of the most absurd Voluntary Witness Statements submitted to the police department came from Karen Clark. She took it upon herself to march down and sign an affidavit stating: “I am requesting a ‘whistleblower’ protection from Maggie Hall, ARK, including staff, corporate board, volunteers and supporters. Threats were made by her staff the day of the seizure of animals....her reputation reaches far and wide. Maggie Hall is known to retaliate....” On and on she blathered not understanding the Whistleblower’s Act only protects those who tell the truth.)[8]

[1] Photographs by Claussen, 11.9.12

[2] Interview with Eastin, 11.9.12

[3] “Court date set to decide fate of animals seized from DeLand shelter,” West Volusia Beacon, 11.12.12

[4] Visited by Tracy Lavino and Kasey Benton, and Jennifer Johnson, 11.29.12

[5] Printed by Claussen, 11.21.12

[6] Visited by Lavino , Benton, and Johnson, 11.29.12

[7] “Dogs taken from ARK animal rescue in DeLand placed in homes,” West Volusia Beacon, 11.8.12

[8] Volunteer Witness Statement, DeLand Police, Karen Clark, 11.12.12