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Beckett files notice of appeal over FLOCK

Beckett files notice of appeal over FLOCK

Originally published on February 19, 2010

great kitty rescue cat cover girl at the flock compound
This emaciated, sickly cat, found at the FLOCK cat sanctuary, was eventually nursed back to health and lived with volunteer Denise Davis, who named her Cover Girl.


Justice of the Peace Kent Jasperson June 11 dismissed the case against the cat sanctuary formerly located on Bond Street, called For the Love of Cats and Kittens, or FLOCK.

None of the 15 witnesses subpoenaed by the district attorney’s office had the opportunity to speak during the abbreviated hearing.

The case was lost by the state, at least for the time being, due to legal procedures and timing that attorney Tom Gibson, the corporate counsel for FLOCK, argued went beyond the statute of limitations.

However, on Wednesday, District Attorney Bob Beckett said in an interview, “We are appealing Kent’s decision. He was wrong. We were fully able to try the corporation. The case is going to continue.”

Beckett’s notice of appeal was filed yesterday. Gibson, said that surprised him because he and Beckett’s office had struck a deal that the case would go no further.

“FLOCK was going to write an apology and the stipulation was they would never get into that sort of business again,” said Gibson. In fact, FLOCK still operates in Las Vegas, but does not have a sanctuary.

Gibson argued the amended complaint was filed “literally one working hour before the hearing,” at 4:12 p.m. on Feb. 10 should be stricken. Jasperson agreed.

The amendment added the names of 11 people to the district attorney’s charging document, in place of anonymous “Director Does 1-3, Officer Does 1-3, Officer Does 1-3” and numerous unnamed employees and volunteers who were also identified by the term Doe.

The names on the amendment include members of the executive board.

The litany of charges against FLOCK for abusing and neglecting the animals in their care originated June 5, 2007. The date the DA’s office filed the original complaint, using anonymous John Does, was June 2, 2008. Gibson argued that the statute of limitations of one year to charge individuals had run out one year and 8 months ago.

Attorney Harry Kuehn assisted Gibson, saying, “It was Mr. Beckett” who was at fault “by sitting around for two and a half years.”

After the dismissal, Beckett said, “That’s not fair.” He explained FLOCK’s board had been re-configured, “We had to find out what the culpability of the members of the board were and then go out and investigate that.”

During the short hearing, Gibson said it is his job to point out the state’s mistakes to Jasperson. “This smells like a rotten fish, and it’s not [Deputy District Attorney] Robert Bettinger’s fault. If the people at the top of the food chain at that office did their job, we wouldn’t be here talking about this today.”

Jasperson apparently agreed, saying “If this case bore that much importance to the district attorney’s office, I would assume they would have filed the complaint a whole lot sooner. Now we come here … to finally name the people who are alleged to have committed this travesty against these animals. That is not the defense’s problem.”

Jasperson said the 11 people who were named the day before have rights in the courts, including being properly notified of a charge listed against them. He added they have a right to an arraignment hearing and to obtain counsel if needed. Gibson said he would not be able to represent a group of people who were all named in the same case.

“It’s up to the DA’s office to bring … a charge before the court in a proper time, filed in a proper manner,” said Jasperson.

“The only thing I see in the file is that these animals that were allegedly mistreated, tortured, malnourished or neglected will never have anything done with this because of the way that this has been drug out over and over and continued and continued and filed improperly … Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Jasperson reiterated that there was “not one specific person named” in the filing from 2008. “You cannot charge an organization with a crime, you have to charge an individual,” the judge said. “I’m done. This case is dismissed.”

Bettinger, who objected in court to Gibson saying Beckett put him in a bad situation, said after the hearing he’d been given the case about two months prior and during that time had obtained substantial help from witnesses about the parties who were allegedly responsible for letting the abuse and neglect continue.

Beckett said, “Mr. Jasperson has never practiced law. He doesn’t know the ins and outs of it. We could have just prosecuted the corporation as an entity but we decided to try the members individually. We expected the judge to go along with that.”

Volunteers say justice not served

Volunteers say justice not served

Originally published on February 19, 2010

volunteers who blew the whistle on flock cry over dismissal of animal abuse case
Denise Davis, right, cries on the shoulder of Cheryl Runyon. These volunteers from Pahrump at the FLOCK sanctuary for cats alerted Nye County Animal Control to the untenable conditions at the compound.


Justice of the Peace Kent Jasperson’s small Pahrump courtroom was nearly filled to capacity last week with former FLOCK volunteers, Best Friends Animal Society volunteers and individual animal lovers.

Some of the volunteers traveled from neighboring states to testify in the case of the State vs. For the Love Of Cats and Kittens.

The volunteers had helped to rescue the 764 sickly, malnourished, disease-ridden cats found at the FLOCK cat sanctuary in July 2007.

At the time, Sheri Allen was president of FLOCK and responsible for the day-to-day operation of the facility. She subsequently was charged with animal cruelty and neglect in a different case having to do with the removal of more than 100 cats from her home in August 2007.

According to Attorney Tom Gibson, who represented Allen, some of the cats at her home were found dead and others were dying. She pleaded guilty to reduced charges and was sentenced by Justice of the Peace Tina Brisebill to one year in jail. Allen was then granted a suspended sentence with 40 hours of community service in 2008.

In a courthouse interview, Gibson, who also acted as the corporate counsel for FLOCK, said the executive board “didn’t know they had put the organization in the hands of the wrong person. We were aiding the police and Animal Control because the people I represent love cats.”

Allen also loves cats. In fact, everyone involved with the sanctuary claims to love animals, yet almost 800 cats were kept fenced into a large dusty compound so covered with feces that the ground had to be bulldozed.

Volunteers said there was little or no food or water at the site and the uninsulated clapboard huts that provided the only protection from the elements for the cats had to be drenched with bleach before volunteers could work in the area.

Pahrump veterinarian Suzanne Zervantian, a member of Nye County’s Animal Advisory Board, closed her practice for the day after being subpoenaed to testify for the state. She was among about 14 others who were not able to tell their versions of what happened.

“FLOCK was like a death camp for cats,” she said outside the courtroom.

When Jasperson dismissed the case, only Gibson seemed pleased with the verdict. Jasperson sounded perturbed at the district attorney’s office, Deputy District Attorney Robert Bettinger was consoling his witnesses and others in the courtroom seemed stunned. Many were in tears, including Zervantian.

Whistleblowers Denise Davis and Cheryl Runyon, who first alerted Animal Control to conditions at the so-called sanctuary, described cats with putrid open sores, bloodstained fur and eyes covered with maggots. The women pulled photographs from their bags to prove their claims that justice was not served by dismissing the case.

Patti Broun, who drove from Southern California to the hearing, said what little food was left for the cats was crawling with ants. She alleged FLOCK members knew what was happening even before Best Friends Animal Society arrived to rescue the animals. Davis and Runyon agreed.

Yet, Nye County Animal Control Supervisor Tim McCarty, who decided against attending last week’s hearing, said in a brief interview this week that “something marvelous happened in Pahrump” that should not be overlooked.

McCarty was instrumental in finding Best Friends, whose volunteers, joined by Pahrump volunteers, cleaned the fetid facilities and spent seven months nursing the majority of the cats to health.

Volunteers from the organization also held numerous adoption events until most of the animals found new homes. Many volunteers took cats home to continue treatment, although about 60 cats died from leukemia that ran rampant and was untreated at the FLOCK facility.

“The magic happened and 764 cats were rescued,” McCarty said, adding that if the cats had gone to the county’s animal shelter, they all would have been put down as there was no way to house and treat them.

“It was all to do with timing,” he said. “The magic was finding an organization willing to spend a million dollars on rescuing the cats and taking care of the triage and medical treatment. I understand that people want justice, but I’ve found it’s better to seek mercy than to seek justice.”

Allen pleads not guilty to animal charges

Allen pleads not guilty to animal charges

Originally published on April 16, 2008

sherri allen former flock president charged with animal abuse in pahrump nv nye county
Sharon Lee Allen, outside the Pahrump Justice Court, after pleading not guilty to 13 misdemeanor charges relating to animal neglect that stemmed from 100 cats seized from her house last summer.


Sharon Lee Allen, former president of the For Love of Cats and Kittens sanctuary, pleaded not guilty to 13 misdemeanor charges relating to animal cruelty and neglect in Pahrump Justice Court Monday, April 14.

Allen’s charges stem from the removal of more than 100 cats from her residence in August 2007.

Authorities maintain the cats were found in dirty conditions and various stages of ill health, but Allen has consistently maintained the cats were well care for and given proper veterinary care when necessary.

She has also said the conditions of her home and the animals had been exaggerated by the media and the authorities.

Allen told Justice of the Peace Tina Brisebill that she would be representing herself in court.

Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 14.

Charges have yet to be filed against Allen or anyone else for the hundreds of cats that were found at the FLOCK sanctuary, located on Bond Street, last summer.

The cats were found sick, dehydrated and starving.

Animal Control officers turned the facility over to the Best Friends Animal Society, the volunteers for which (along with a number of locals) cleaned the facility, treated the cats and held a number of adoption events until most of the animals found new homes.

The remaining cats were transferred to the Best Friends no-kill sanctuary in Kenab, Utah.

Unfortunately, 60 cats from the sanctuary ultimately had to be euthanized.

Allen has denied responsibility for the conditions in which the sanctuary’s cats were found, saying she left them well-fed and in good condition when she resigned from her position as president of FLOCK and left in May.

Margaret Ward, of FLOCK’s executive board, has said Allen took in more animals than she could handle and let the situation escalate out of control.

Million-dollar rescue finished at FLOCK site

Million-dollar rescue finished at FLOCK site

Originally published on February 13, 2008


The recent rescue operation at the For Love of Cats and Kittens sanctuary, on Bond Street, was “the single largest recorded hoarding case and subsequent rescue of cats ever in the United States,” according to Patti Broun of the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California.

The cats were discovered last July with little shelter available to protect them from the summer heat on two-and-a-half acres of feces-covered brush and dirt.

The majority were starving, dehydrated, sick, or all of the above.

The final tally given by Broun for the number of cats recorded at the facility is staggering.

According to Broun, who volunteered extensively during the operation, 748 cats were microchipped, photographed, vaccinated and catalogued during the course of the rescue.

Of those, 64 died due to health complications.

On the bright side, many of the cats found new, loving homes thanks to a number of adoption events held here and in Las Vegas by the Best Friends Animal Society, the rescue group called in by Nye County Animal Control to take over the situation after it was discovered.

But the rescue wasn’t cheap and the majority of the tab was picked up by Best Friends.

According to Broun, to date the cost of the rescue is just a little over $1 million, including close to $240,000 for veterinarian and animal hospital bills.

The last 53 cats, recently transported to the Best Friends sanctuary in Kenab, Utah, have accrued an additional $53,000 in medical expenses.

Donations for the project throughout the course of the rescue have totaled a little over $300,000.

Best Friends workers, assisted by volunteers Broun said came from all over the country, literally camped out at the sanctuary and began cleaning the facility and fencing it into more manageable segments.

They also began feeding, treating, and micro chipping the animals.

After a few months, adoption events were held and many of the cats were placed in new homes, and several cats that had been lost years ago were returned to their grateful owners.

Margaret Ward, current president of FLOCK, said the nonprofit corporation is still reeling from the effects of the debacle but will continue working for animals from its base in Las Vegas.

“We’re taking it a day at a time,” Ward said. “I won’t say we’ll never have a sanctuary again, but for now we’re just taking it slow.”

Ward said at the moment the organization is focusing on adoption, spaying and neutering strays, veterinarian care for street cats, and foster care for kittens.

The Bond Street sanctuary, which was temporarily leased to Nye County Animal Control for as long as cats were treated at the facility, will revert back to FLOCK.

Ward, however, said most likely the property would be put up for sale and the organization would not attempt to reopen a sanctuary.

The FLOCK executive board said former President Sherri Allen was responsible for the condition of the cats, saying she began taking in more cats than she and sanctuary volunteers could handle and becoming overwhelmed.

Allen has continually maintained she informed the board of her resignation on May 30, 2006, and left behind a clean sanctuary with healthy cats.

Although Allen was later arrested for over 100 counts of animal cruelty for the condition of her own personal animals, she has yet to be charged by the district attorney’s office for either incident.

FLOCK also has not to date been formally charged.

Cats FLOCK to Utah sanctuary

Cats FLOCK to Utah sanctuary

Originally published on February 6, 2008

great kitty rescue cat joker and best friends animal sanctuary employee tammy rolfe
Tammy Rolfe, adoption coordinator for Best Friends Animal Society, reaches in to give Joker the cat some company. Joker is one of the last 57 cats that were shipped to the Best Friends sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, last Friday, ending a six-month-long rescue operation.


Six months ago over 400 cats and kittens were found in dire condition in the summer heat at the former For Love of Cats and Kittens sanctuary located on Bond Street.

Since then, thanks to the efforts of volunteers and the Best Friends Animal Society, most of the cats have been treated when necessary and adopted into loving homes.

And last Friday, the first day of February, saw the last 57 cats packed up into a climate-controlled, specially-shelved truck and taken to their new home at the Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

Back in July, when the cats were first discovered on a couple of acres of mostly brush and dirt, most of the animals were starving, sick, dehydrated, or all of the above, living in their own filth at a facility that belied its name of “sanctuary.”

Since there were so many of them, Nye County Animal Control officers called in the Best Friends Animal Society for some help with the situation.

With generous help, donations and community volunteers, the animal society quickly set up camp (literally living in RVs parked outside the facility) and got to work cleaning the facility and rescuing the cats.

Fencing was brought in, parceling out the acres into more manageable segments.

Meanwhile the cats were captured, checked, inoculated, treated for everything from upper respiratory syndrome to ringworm, and perhaps most importantly, fed and loved.

Several cats were identified as missing family pets and returned to their owners.

In addition, adoption events were held (both in Las Vegas and locally) and many of the cats found new families.

The 57 cats sitting sheltered in one of the sanctuary’s hutches were patiently waiting to be taken to their new home.

“Many are being worked with for social issues, we’re socializing them,” Shelly Thayer, project specialist for Best Friends explained.

Although the cats are getting settled into their new home, there are still a number of loose ends regarding the facility.

The question of who is responsible for the condition in which the cats were originally found, for one, has yet to be answered.

The executive board of FLOCK pointed a finger at Sherri Allen, who they said became overwhelmed by taking in too many cats and losing control over the facility.

Allen, on the other hand, said she notified the board of her resignation on May 30, 2006, and left a clean sanctuary with cats in good condition.

The cats were found approximately four weeks later.

Allen has not yet been charged by the district attorney’s office for her possible involvement in the FLOCK debacle, although she has been arrested and booked on over 100 counts of animal cruelty for the condition her personal pets that were found at her residence.

She has not been charged for that incident either, but is embroiled in a legal battle with Channel 3, Best Friends, and the Las Vegas news station’s parent company as a result of the incident.

A friend of Allen’s sent video footage to Channel 3 showing Allen’s animals being seized, ostensibly to show the cats were in fact being kept in good condition.

The news channel, however, spliced that footage together with footage from the FLOCK sanctuary, resulting in Allen suing for defamation after a cease and desist letter was ignored.

Allen alleged the video clip played by the news station gave the impression she was being arrested for her involvement with FLOCK, not because of her own personal animals.

Channel 3, its parent company, and Best Friends all joined together in filing a motion to dismiss Allen’s case.

The case is still in juducial limbo.

As for the facility on Bond Street, the property was leased to Nye County Animal Control for as long as cats were being treated at the facility.

Now that the kitties are cleared out, Tim McCarty, animal control supervisor, said the property would revert back to whoever is in charge at FLOCK.

Ultimately, however, McCarty said the future of the property would be determined by the district attorney’s office and the courts.

Should FLOCK decide to use the property as a sanctuary again, they would require a permit from the county, McCarty said.

And thanks to Title 17, code enforcement would subject the facility to random searches and visits.

Prior to that legislation, McCarty said, there were no standards for animal control to enforce.

For the cats who survived, at least, the ordeal is over.

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