No Escape for Abusers

Posted on October 17, 2002

One of the 48 cats recently rescued from hoarder Vicki Kittles

finds better care in the Cheyenne Animal Shelter.

ALDF’s Anti-Cruelty Division recently helped the
long arm of the law stretch a little further. After landing in hot
water for their mistreatment of animals, an abusive dog trainer and a
notorious hoarder moved to new locations — and soon went back to their
old tricks. But ALDF continued tracking these two and their activities,
supplying local activists and authorities with comprehensive files on
both of them. Soon afterwards, they found themselves facing new charges.

Stephen Barry King first came to the attention of animal advocates in
Oregon in the 1990s because of his extreme methods. Most disturbing was
his predilection for disciplining dogs through "airplaning" or
"helicoptering," which involves jerking his victims off the ground by
their choke collars, temporarily hanging and strangling them. King
insisted that this was necessary to "correct" dogs and force them to
obey.

When Anti-Cruelty Division Director Pamela Frasch witnessed King’s
behavior firsthand in a local park, she realized that he needed to be
stopped. After intervening that day, Frasch began searching for human
guardians who felt King had mistreated their dogs. She quickly found
more than 30 such people. Frasch and other animal advocates brought
their concerns to local prosecutors, who launched an investigation.
Though cruelty charges were never brought against King in Oregon, his
excessive methods were exposed in the local media, resulting in a wave
of negative publicity. King eventually left the state.

But he wasn’t through "airplaning" dogs. King went all the way to
England, where he quickly went into business as a dog trainer, billing
himself as a respected American expert in the field. The Anti-Cruelty
Division learned of King’s move, and soon ALDF staff attorney Stephan
Otto was supplying animal advocates in Britain with extensive material
on King’s activities. Armed with case files, undercover surveillance
video and advice provided by ALDF, England’s Ooze Online (a pro-animal website) launched a campaign to expose King.

Eventually, prosecutors in London brought charges. This summer, King
was convicted of four counts of animal cruelty: two for "inflicting
unnecessary suffering" and two for "cruelly terrifying and cruelly
treating animals." The charges stemmed from two separate incidences
involving dogs. King was fined £500 (approximately $800) in the first
case. In the second case — in which King wrapped a leash around a
2-year-old bull terrier’s neck and swung the animal a foot off the
ground, causing the dog to bleed and become incontinent — the judge’s
sentence included a £2000 fine (about $3000), 100 hours of community
service and an eight-year ban on custody and control of dogs.

"King has spread terror wherever he’s gone," says Otto. "Fortunately,
through the perseverance of ALDF and animal advocates in the U.K., his
abusive activities have finally been exposed in a court of law. He’s
been brought to justice at last."

Vicki Kittles has a history of hording animals that extends back over
many years and many states. In the early 1980s, she ran into trouble
with the law in Florida for allegedly hording dogs and horses in a home
littered with feces and the bodies of dead animals. That pattern of
abuse was repeated again and again over the years, with Kittles accused
of imprisoning animals in squalid, cramped surroundings in Colorado,
Washington and Oregon.

Thanks largely to expert witnesses and legal research provided by ALDF,
Kittles was eventually convicted in Oregon of 42 misdemeanor counts of
animal neglect. The case garnered widespread publicity, and ALDF used
that momentum to push for stronger anti-cruelty laws. Soon afterward,
the Oregon legislature passed an ALDF-drafted bill that made aggravated
animal abuse a felony in the state.

As she had in the past, Kittles simply moved on when things got too hot
for her. After serving almost a year in an Oregon jail, she moved to
Wyoming, where she apparently began acquiring yet another menagerie of
animals she allegedly couldn’t care for. The Anti-Cruelty Division
stayed in contact with animal advocates in the state, offering
background information on Kittles and her ways.

This summer, officials in Cheyenne removed 48 cats and six horses from
her property. Although only one charge has been brought so far — a
livestock-at-large misdemeanor — prosecutors there are considering
further action. In the meantime, ALDF is working with pro-animal
politicians and activists in Wyoming to strengthen the state’s animal
protection laws.

"It’s extremely important for us to track individuals convicted of
animal crimes, like Kittles and King, since they’re so likely to put
more animals at risk," says Otto.

"There’s a message we want to send to animal abusers: You can run, but
you can’t hide," adds Frasch. "These latest cases prove that."