Did the Chambers County Sheriff's Office Libel an Animal Rescue Group's Owners? [UPDATED]

Will the Sheriff follow up on his allegations?
Will the Sheriff follow up on his allegations? Chambers County Sheriff's Office Facebook page
In a highly unusual Facebook post from a law enforcement agency, the Chambers County Sheriff's Office has accused the owners of an animal rescue of abandoning 31 dogs as floodwaters rose, and of being more interested in collecting donations "than he did about the dogs or his imperiled neighbors waiting to be rescued."

Without citing evidence or stating that the owners of the Tall Tails Animal Rescue in Hankamer were under investigation, the Sheriff's Office also accused co-owner Kevin Miller of harboring "fighting dogs." (Hankamer is about 70 miles east of Houston.)

Here's the complete August 29 post:

"Sheriff [Brian] Hawthorne reports that we rescued another 31 dogs from Tall Tail kennels today. Yesterday the kennel owner, Kevin Miller, was evacuated on the last trip the airboat made in to the property. At that time he stated no other animals needed to be rescued.

Miller's partner began posting on Facebook yesterday that there were more animals to be rescued and today efforts resumed.

Two groups volunteered their airboats to the Sheriff's office for the rescue effort so that our airboats could continue to rescue the citizens of Chambers County.

Sheriff's Office Detectives that were assisting in the rescue identified what appeared to be numerous fighting dogs and that Miller appeared to care more about receiving PayPal donations than he did about the dogs or his imperiled neighbors, waiting to be rescued."

Neither Miller nor co-owner Kathleen Tschirgi has publicly responded to the allegations. We've reached out to both for comment.

The owners' emotional pleas for help in saving their dogs and pigs went viral August 28  and 29, and Hawthorne's allegations have triggered more than 700 comments as of Wednesday, with most people calling the claims bogus.

Tschirgi posted August 29:

"Please pray for us and our dogs. Its non-stop raining here. We are laying on a picnic table near all the dogs we could get. Trying to catch a little sleep to regain strength for tomorrow.

Please pray to whatever God or spiritual being you pray too. And may God forgive us for the choices we had to make today."

We were curious about how deputies arrived at the bit about "fighting dogs," as many rescue organizations deal with former fighting dogs, but the sheriff's office's non-emergency phone number is out of service, and the Facebook page administrator has not responded to an interview request. We also emailed the sheriff's office and have yet to hear back.

Obviously, these people are busy — but we would've assumed that if authorities are going to level those kind of allegations, they'd have someone available to address any questions.

And, to point out the obvious, it's peculiar for a law enforcement official to publicly comment on the (alleged) character of a person who has not been charged with a crime, as well as drop a not-so-subtle suggestion that the person has somehow broken the law.

We hope to have more soon.

Update, August 30, 2:30 p.m.:  Tschirgi has posted a brief response to the accusations on Miller's Facebook page:

"Please know that the sheriff report is false...but anyone that knows us already knows that. We will be giving our story to the news stations as soon as we can. We are still focused on getting our dogs situated with the right rescues who have stepped up and also making sure our boarding clients get to their proper destinations."

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Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow