Woman Helps Animals and is Charged With Theft

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Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

Who knew looking after the welfare of abandoned animals  could land you on the cover of the Tri-Cities Busted tabloid magazine?  Jo Zimmerman knows this story all too well…and it isn’t very glamorous.

It all started out as a friendly gesture: Zimmerman and her cousin rented a family property in Kingsport, TN to a man and his girlfriend, charged them low rent, and gave them rent credit in exchange for a number of repairs. The cousins even placed the couple’s utility bills under Jo’s name so they could avoid paying a deposit. In January, when the man asked if he could keep a dog in a fenced lot across the street, Zimmerman agreed, with the stipulation of a doghouse and the promise of keeping the area clean. Unfortunately, the couple didn’t follow through on their promise and Zimmerman and her cousin often fed the dog.

That month, the man told Zimmerman he couldn’t pay the electric bill and she agreed to deduct $150 off his $350 rent if he made some additional repairs and cleaned the garage. He never came through with what was left of his rent, and he went on to leave February’s rent unpaid.

March rolled around and Zimmerman again struck a deal that involved the man receiving $300 rent credit in exchange for painting a tin roof. Once more, the remainder of that rent, as well as April’s went unpaid. Zimmerman told the tenants to pay up for all past and current bills or move out by May 1st. On April 27th the electricity was cut off and the couple moved out…leaving behind two cats and the dog.

Zimmerman and her cousin took care of the animals; every attempt to contact the couple led them to a dead end. On May 9th, the cousins found a loving family with a 12-year-old boy to take the dog. Just two days later, them man called Zimmerman, wanting to know the whereabouts of “his” dog. She told the man she had been feeding the abandoned dog and cats and had recently found a home for the dog.

Later that month Zimmerman was blown away to receive a criminal summons, charging her with theft under $500. As if the drama of the previous months hadn’t been enough, now the man was charging her with stealing his dog.

Zimmerman went to the courthouse, was fingerprinted, received her court date, and had her photo taken. Little did she know that same photo would end up on the Tri-Cities: Busted tabloid and seen by nearly everyone in her community.

After three times in court (the first time the man didn’t show up, and the second time the judge wasn’t there), Zimmerman’s case was dismissed.

The dog is still happy with his new family, both the cats have now been placed in loving homes, and Zimmerman says the experience has taught her valuable lessons.  It also brought her and her friends together for a common cause: “banding together” for a no-kill animal shelter in Sullivan County.

Some lessons are hard, but thankfully the dog and cats are all now well-cared-for and safe.

0 thoughts on “Woman Helps Animals and is Charged With Theft”

  1. At this point, I’d consider it a badge of honor to get arrested for doing the right thing by rescuing an animal. The systems is screwed up when we protect the rights of abusers and neglect the welfare of the animals and the rights of their rescuers.

  2. Yes, but the gall of the guy who took advantage of her good will, didn’t treat his animals right, and then wasted the court’s time is enormous. He’s the kind of freeloader that will keep us all paying for a long, long time.

  3. This only happens because the prosecutor is a half-wit and did not do some investigating before laying the charge…which is his job, after all. I guess he is elected down there?

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