Search Warrant at Former Vick Property Details Cruelty Allegations

The search warrant issued against the VA property formerly owned by Michael Vick but currently owned by the group Dogs Deserve Better provides details on the alleged animal cruelty with which the group’s founder, Tamira Thayne, has been charged:

“Animals are being maced and tased on a regular basis.”

“There have been several dog fights and injured animals are not being vetted.”

“Dogs are being crated in unsuitable size crates for a minimum of 19 hours a day.”

While the latter two allegations are self-explanatory for the average pet lover, I was deeply troubled by the allegations of macing and tasing dogs.  Although I have no specific information on the individual pets at Dogs Deserve Better, I know that some sanctuary groups specifically take in dogs with behavioral issues who can be too much for most people to handle.  I wondered if either mace or tasers could possibly be appropriate in some circumstance I could not envision due to my lack of experience handling difficult dogs such as these may have been.  So I asked Steve Markwell of Olympic Animal Sanctuary for a comment on the use of either weapon since he has extensive experience handling all manner of dogs with behavior issues including ferals and dogs who have killed.  (And to reiterate, I have no information about the behavior of the dogs at Ms. Thayne’s home beyond what’s been reported in the media.)  This is Steve’s response:

We do not have tasers, stun guns, cattle prods, mace, pepper spray, or any, similar items in our facility, nor do we advocate using them on dogs for any reason. There is a minute chance that a taser or stun gun would be useful in self defense against a serious dog attack, but the dangers of over-reliance on such items and of using them incorrectly far outweighs their benefits. In the case of mace and pepper spray, they are as likely to intensify an attack as to discourage one, and the risk of self-injury is quite high, especially indoors. The best course of action in a dog attack, if escape is not an option, is to learn how to restrain the dog. Appropriate restraint is the most effective way to minimize injuries. If one lacks the physical strength to restrain the dog, adopting a defensive position, ‘turtling up,’ may be the best option.

In terms of training, the aforementioned items are never appropriate. No one who works with dogs should put him or herself into a position where these things would ever be considered an option. If used to ‘correct’ an animal’s behavior, one can expect that behavior to further deteriorate. These are extreme examples of the ‘positive punishment’ quadrant of operant conditioning, in which an aversive stimulus is introduced to discourage the repetition of a behavior. Unfortunately there are other mental processes at work that tend to result in the  aversive stimulus becoming linked to various other stimuli. This is all the more true when more brutal forms of punishment are employed.

There seems to be an endless supply of ‘extreme’ dog trainers and handlers for whom adrenaline and dominance are the goal. The entirety of their motivation and subsequent approach is inappropriate, unethical, and ultimately ineffective. A focus on the health and safety of the animal will always yield the best result in terms of its behavior, as well as the health and safety of the handler.

(Thank you Steve.  This is good information to know, especially for those of us unaccustomed to handling dangerous dogs.)

While executing the search warrant at Dogs Deserve Better, authorities reportedly seized nine cans of mace and a taser:

The mace cans were found in several locations including a closet and in drawers of the kitchen. In addition, investigators found an invoice for the purchase of the mace.

Employees who declined to be identified responded to the cruelty allegations, telling WTKR:

“No, we were not tasing dogs. The batteries in the TASER were dead when they tried it, so how is a dog supposed to be tased if the batteries are dead in one they found in the back of a drawer?”

They would not comment on the mace that was found.

I will update this post if new information becomes available today.

35 thoughts on “Search Warrant at Former Vick Property Details Cruelty Allegations

  1. These things, if true, bother me no end. Something is not right somewhere and I hope the truth will come out and the dogs involved will be moved to a safe, secure environment. It’s all very puzzling, for sure.

  2. I will note that there are other reasons to have mace on hand. Violent predators of the two-legged type for example. And considering who used to own the property (and what went on there) THAT wouldn’t overly surprise me. And if I had a large sprawling property and didn’t have a way to carry a can on me at all times having them stashed various places would be an acceptable substitute. Which doesn’t mean that the allegations are false either….it will be interesting to watch this unfold.

  3. I was thinking that, too – that the mace is for protection from humans, not dogs. I don’t know how many people they have on the property, but it doesn’t sound like a lot and given the history of the place…well, who knows when bad people will show up?

    1. Do you really think Vick’s cronies don’t know he no longer lives there? Stop making that excuse…please.

      1. Of course they do, Ices. But there are plenty of Vick supporters in the area and they resent DDB being there. To assume that there won’t be some kind of harassment is naive.

      2. From Bring Joel Home FB page: “Below is a comment of denial from the husband of the DDB founder who has been accused of animal cruelty.”

        “The facts are wrong as usual. I’ve lost all faith in reporters, it seems like all they care about is sensationalism, not the facts. The spray that was confiscated was not mace but pepper spray designed for dogs; the same style that the U.S. Post Office issues to their mail carriers. It wasn’t a taser but a low-wattage stun gun that I bought for Tami for personal protection since her brutal attack by a Chow Chow a couple of years ago. The allegations of abuse are from one disgruntled ex-employee who is trying to deflect the attention from her own legal concerns. Terese, get your facts straight or don’t report. I’m disgusted by the way you jumped on the bandwagon without verifying a single thing.”

        This was later deleted from the DDB Facebook page where it was posted. DDB needs to get their spin straight.

        Employees are quoted as calling the electrical protection device a Taser, Joe Thayne says its a “low wattage” (he means low voltage) stun gun. Thayne says the “Mace” (Mace brand pepper spray) was for self protection, employees were shown on TV (after saying no comment) commenting that they kept the spray around “just in case” of dog fights.

  4. I first became aware of this ‘case’ a couple of days ago. I’ve felt sick since. I need all the info. I can get; I need to KNOW the truth!

  5. Evidently the property is surrounded by Vick supporters who have been threatening Dogs Deserve Better–the founder was on her honeymoon when all of this came down and she is confused and horrified by the whole thing. Those threatening the group include a church across the street….Please reserve judgement–Dogs deserve Better has done wonderful things.

    1. When you describe the neighbors as “Vick supporters”, are you saying there is evidence they believe he was a good guy and treated his dogs well or what?

      1. I don’t know about the church or people who live near the house, but you do see people wearing Vick Jerseys or displaying Eagles’ paraphernalia around here. Some are proud of their “working” dogs. There are other examples that could be provided, but the point is that, yes, there’s support* for Michael Vick (and dog fighting, generally) in this area.

        *but not from me!

  6. If the mace was being used as a defense on “intruders” why didnt the staff say that????

    1. Because the WORST thing you can when the cops are out to get you (legitimetly or not) is ‘comment’ without your lawyer present.

  7. I know little to nothing about this case, but I have a box of bear bangers on my kitchen counter and the pocket pen in the pen cup. I however do not use them on my cats and would hate to think that someone may come over and think I did.

    1. This is not a case of someone coming over and making assumptions about items found in your home. Authorities are saying they received complaints from former and present employees that the dogs were being tased and maced. That is how they were able to get the search warrant for said items. Of course these allegations have not been proven in court at this time.

      1. They also found recent burn marks on Jada that weren’t there at the last inspection in July, which heavily suggests the taser was used on Jada, which would be why she was removed.

  8. Wow. I was not expecting all of this from this situation. I do agree that if I was on Vick’s old property Id be carrying around mace and tazers too (if not a freakin handgun!). But then again, I wouldnt be on his old property anyway, so. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. And Vick supporters? Like people who think he is a good football player? Seems kind of like an oxymoron to me…

  9. According to some former employees and volunteers it looks like there has been a lot going on behind the scenes for awhile-

    I did wonder why a group that seemed to have a great mission to keep dogs from being chained up went to doing rescue. (Okay, I didn’t really wonder much; I assumed it had to do with the money it could bring in). And while I saw the symbolism in buying Vick’s place for rescue it seemed like a huge amount of money to raise to purchase it. Money that I thought could have been better spent on the animals. I just couldn’t bring myself to support it and reading through some of the posts on that blog makes me glad I didn’t.

    When can’t rescue be about the animals?

  10. Please don’t let this be true. The legacy of the Vick property needed to be about redemption. Just the possibility that even a single animal was neglected or abused there again is horrifying. Thank you for following this story

  11. I think it’s most likely that they used mace or pepper spray to break up dog fights. And it does work, properly applied. Properly generally means that when two dogs are locked onto one another (and that’s not just a “pitbull thing”) or one dog won’t release another, the aggressor(s) get a quick squirt of pepper spray right in the mouth. They *will* let go.

    Are they having a lot of dog fights because they are taking a whole bunch of unsocialized mature dogs and tossing them into a house together and expecting everyone to just get along?

    Using pepper spray to break up a serious dog fight is preferable to allowing dogs to injure one another. (If you insist on frequenting dog parks, or must exercise your dog in places where you are exposed to attacks by uncontrolled dogs, I recommend that you carry if it is legal and you get trained in its use.)

    Better yet is not setting up dogs for serious fights by playing “The Real World” in an infamous mansion with a whole bunch of dogs, some of whom may have been neglected, and probably all of whom lack social skills.

    I don’t know about tasers, except that they can kill you if used improperly.

  12. I’ve seen Tasers used on dogs by Law Enforcement – when I’ve been out on AC calls. I have not seen them do any good…in fact my experience – it enrages and confuses the dog to incite them even more. I have used pepper spray in a fight ring situation during a bust. It worked well on several dogs – but on many others it did not 0 they became even more aggressive. And the pepper spray got into our eyes and skin! I always prefer the slower more gentle tactics which work on most every dog. When they don’t – I prefer the catch pole…even though I hate using it – it is much more benign than injuring an animal with chemicals or electrical jolts. I do have pepper spray in several places on my property – in case of intruders – and I’m certified. I don’t have it for animals!

  13. Having worked with difficult dogs for many years now (we are NOT just about the old and infirmed, or the circlers like Ranger) and have the scars to prove it. EVERYTHING that Steve says is absolutely TRUE. That being said, this sounds like a strictly directed attack by a single or multiple parties who have an axe to grind. While this statement doesn’t mean the allegations AREN’T true, which I have no way of knowing, in a case where you have unsocialized or aggressive animals, there are bound to be mistakes in handling (esp. if over full with these dogs) that can lead to dog fights. And there are many ways to break them up – tasers and pepper spray NOT being on the list of how to do this. Something here doesn’t add up, which makes me think that someone is gunning for DDB.

  14. I have to say that I agree with Morgana that “someone is gunning for DDB.” The first dog that DDB took in for their program at Good Newz came from my facility in Cheatham County Tennessee – where I was Director. I have nothing bad to say about my experiences with them or the way they have handled things with me. Oru state rep here in TN is great as well. I think we need to just follow and not jump to conclusions.

  15. Now that I have read the aforementioned WordPress blog by former employees/vol’s, I know less than I did before. HAs something happened to Tami’s mind since she got married? Since she managed to bring about an amazing feat of turning Vick’s House of Horrors into a base for rescue? Is the truth somewhere between the two camps? It still doesn’t add up. But one thing I do know: if you are overwhelmed with difficult dogs, it is hard to stay objective with people, because you are carrying a load of worry etc.

    There is, however, no excuse for not vetting an injured animal, unless there is no money and you can do it yourself, properly. As I said above, shit happens when trying to keep opposing dogs apart and that shit needs to be dealt with, sometimes immediately.

    I don’t know where the truth lies here. The same things have been said over a long period of time about Sue Marino of Angel’s Gate in Delhi, NY.

    If an organization that was founded by ONE PERSON suddenly gains fame and if they’re lucky, fortune, then perhaps there is a case to be made for the founders suffering from Capt. Queeg Syndrome…who stole the strawberries? when the ship is about to sink.

  16. Just for some added info – I did some research on “Mace” and pepper spray. It turns out that sprays containing 100% of the original chemical “Mace” (CN Tear Gas) are no longer produced due to toxicity plus the fact that pepper spray is more effective.

    However, Mace as a brand name is still used by the Mace company ( that produces pepper spray formulas. The do have a “triple action” spray that contains pepper spray, CN Tear Gas, and a UV dye to mark the attacker. They make a pepper spray for dogs and one for bears.

    Also, since pepper spray is not water soluable and the effects can last for over an hour, there are special first aid measures to counteract it.

    “Since pepper spray irritates the lining of the nose and throat, causing difficulty breathing, there have been reports of lightheadedness, confusion, disorientation and lack of muscle control. While this may be a side effect, it can be more directly attributed to lack of oxygen or the stress of being sprayed. In certain instances, the effects of pepper spray can last beyond the normal 30 to 60 minute recovery time and can cause problems in the GI tract.”

    Part of the warrant mentioned bloody and loose stools.

  17. Thanks for posting the link. I have only had antidotes from the manufacturers for humans and therefore only used water on dogs that had been pepper sprayed. Good info.

  18. Why were the batteries dead in that taser? How many times did she use it on a dog to kill the batteries???? And if the neighborhood is really that bad, why did she move there in the first place??? smh

  19. As a side note why does this woman not only pay herself but feels she needs paid staff when there are only 9 dogs on the property?? I know of many rescues with more than 9 dogs and no paid staff..

  20. to pariah’s perch: So make an official AC complaint against the neighbor’s dogs, but until then don’t libel them on line. And don’t you question why you got a dog from a “rehab” center who didn’t know his own name? And now his biggest accomplishment as a 75 lb beagle (3 times the normal weight for a beagle) is that he can jump on your bed? And the story about your “confrontation” with a couple who came to inquire about giving up a dog, where you wished you were armed? Oh and let’s not forget how you associate hunting with dog fighting. For someone who “didn’t want to say much about DDB,” you said a lot, and it sheds a lot of light on DDB and their current situation, that’s for sure.

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