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Local Sanctuary Seeks Justice for Allegedly Neglected Calf
By Nancy E. Sheppard

NCalf imageWILLIAMSBURG – In the early morning hours of April 22, 2019, a car pulled into the driveway of a Williamsburgbased animal sanctuary. The third party stepped out of the vehicle and retrieved a severely malnourished female calf from inside. She claimed that she found the calf abandoned on the side of the road. The owners didn’t ask many questions… they blindly trusted the story and knew that time was of the essence to save the calf’s life.

Her appearance was jarring. She was so thin that her spine, pelvis, and ribs were greatly protruding from her body. She was covered in festering wounds, lice, and her hooves were rotting. For documentation, sanctuary owner Ryan Phillips took photos of the calf which show her condition upon arrival (photos that have been authenticated and verified by third parties of Yorktown Crier-Poquoson Post). Everyone at the sanctuary fell in love with her and worked alongside Mr. Phillips to save her life. They gave her the name Sophie.

On April 25, Dr. Robert Lee, DVM, of Tidewater Equine Clinic & Farm Animal Services, was the first veterinarian able examine Sophie. He looked at the images taken by Mr. Phillips and compared them to her condition just three days later. It was obvious that Mr. Phillips and the team at Life with Pigs worked tirelessly to care for Sophie. In a signed letter dated April 25, 2019, Dr. Lee stated that Sophie’s condition rated a 2 out of 9 on the Henneke Body Condition Scoring System (very thin) upon arrival at the sanctuary. At the time of his examination, he rated her condition 3 out of 9 (thin) and gave her an approximate age of merely a few weeks old. Her wounds were healing and, though she still showed signs of lingering illness, she seemed to be recovering under the expert care of Mr. Phillips and his team. Dr. Lee concluded that Sophie’s condition was consistent with illness or neglect over a length of time.

Sophie was flourishing and loved her new home just as much as her new caretakers loved her. Mr. Phillips continued to believe that she was found abandoned on the side of the road. Then, on May 7, 2019, Baltimore County (Maryland) Police arrived at Life with Pigs with a warrant and took Sophie away. It was only then that Mr. Phillips learned the true circumstances of how Sophie came to the sanctuary: she was stolen from her original owners by the aforementioned third party.

Concerned for her wellbeing, Mr. Phillips called every cattle farm he could find listed in Baltimore County in order to figure out where Sophie was taken. He started the conversation by not stating who he was or where he was from, but offering to pay an amount far exceeding the market value for Sophie’s return to the sanctuary. When he got on the phone with Scott Braglio of Braglio Farms, the conversation took a dark turn.

In a recorded phone conversation obtained by Yorktown Crier-Poquoson Post, Scott Braglio admitted ownership of Sophie and then unleashed a profanity- laced diatribe at Mr. Phillips. Mr. Braglio accused Mr. Phillips of unwarranted and unjustified things, called him vulgar names, and then claimed that he had the Baltimore County Police at his behest. Mr. Braglio went on to threaten physical violence against Mr. Phillips, the animals at the sanctuary, and the sanctuary itself.

In a statement from Braglio Farms to Yorktown Crier- Poquoson Post, they revealed that Sophie (whom they call "Milly”) was a ten-month-old calf and denied any neglect to the animal prior to her arrival. They stated that she was illegally taken from their land on the evening of April 21, 2019. They also claimed that Sophie was born a twin, that it was common for a mother cow to neglect a twin, and that she was a "pet” of Braglio’s daughters. When pressed further for comment regarding her condition upon arrival at Life with Pigs, farm officials replied with veiled threats towards this reporter.

We have reached out to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, who tells us that instances of suspected animal abuse are turned over to local police departments to handle. Despite Mr. Braglio’s claims of collusion with the Baltimore County Police, the Maryland Department of Agriculture refused to comment any further regarding having a third party step in to investigate when there are suspicions of collusion. The Baltimore County Police Department have not returned numerous requests to provide comments for this article. It has been told to us that the police are claiming that the photos taken by Mr. Phillips on April 22, 2019 cannot be authenticated. However, what they failed to acknowledge is that, by looking at the metadata of each original image, it is proven that the photos were taken on the date in question.

The questions we are left asking are for concern over Sophie’s safety. Why was she left in such a condition when she arrived in Williamsburg? Why hasn’t anyone outside of the Baltimore County Police Department stepped in to investigate further? Why hasn’t anyone in Maryland given a voice for the alleged victim: Sophie? Without cooperation from officials in Maryland and with the threats lobbied by Braglio Farms towards Life with Pigs, Sophie’s future remains in limbo. There are fervent attempts being taken on social media to get Sophie’s story out in the public eye, but it has not yet swayed anyone capable of stepping in and investigating further.

To continue to follow Sophie’s story, keep checking with Yorktown Crier-Poquoson Post. If you would like to learn more about her story and the sanctuary that saved her life, visit their Facebook page at: LifeWithPigs.


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