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Virginia DOC K-9 “Training” Results in Animal Cruelty Charges

by David M. Reutter

The training of a dog as a law enforcement K-9 unit requires hours of dedication and bonding between the animal and its handler. It appears that guards with the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) believed in using a “hands on” approach when it came to the bonding part. In fact, their method of training bordered on bestiality.

On October 2, 2009, Powhatan County Commonwealth Attorney Robert B. Beasley, Jr. filed misdemeanor animal cruelty charges against Green Rock Correctional Center guard Kelvin Thompson, former Sussex County Prison guard Melvin Boone, Nottoway Correctional Center guards Adam R. Webb and Cheri Campbell, and former Nottoway Sgt. Anthony Eldridge.

An unidentified VDOC employee had filed a complaint after watching a video of K-9 training at the department’s Academy for Staff Development, and an investigation ensued. Apparently, the employee was appalled by the technique used by some VDOC guards to train dogs to love and obey their handlers. In fact “handlers” was a particularly appropriate term.

In the video, Thompson “allegedly had some sexual contact with the animal,” said Beasley. “Essentially, he was touching the dog’s penis with his hand. The others were filming it. That’s actually how we learned of it – there’s a video.”

Beasley considered but could not prove a charge of bestiality. That felony charge is defined in state law as a crime against nature that requires proof of “carnal knowledge” of a “brute beast,” which implies intercourse.

The rationale behind videotaping the K-9 “training” mystified Beasley. “I don’t have the slightest idea – I really don’t,” he said. Thompson, Webb and Campbell were removed from the K-9 program after the incident was discovered.

Thompson argued in court that his actions weren’t cruel to the dog, a German Shepherd. “I would characterize it as hazing,” he stated, adding that other employees had told him, “If you masturbate your K-9 unit, you’ll have greater control over it.”

Thompson’s attorney noted that prosecutors would have a hard time trying to prove animal cruelty. “The statute is not set up to deal with this type of thing,” he said. “I don’t think the legislature quite had this in mind.” He was apparently correct.

The charges against Thompson and the other current and former VDOC guards were later dropped, after Beasley was informed by several veterinarians that fondling the dog did not cause it any harm. “I came to the conclusion that if you have reputable veterinarians in disagreement over the issue, you’re not going to be able to prove it in court,” he stated.

Evidently, not only is a dog a man’s best friend, but the opposite also holds true – at least when the man is in the VDOC’s K-9 training program.

Sources:,, Richmond Times Dispatch

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