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Ralph Ullum found “not guilty” of poisoning a competitor’s dog but there’s danger in the Siberian ring and in Ullum’s AKC suspension...


December 2011

Barbara "BJ" Andrews, SAAB Member


Ralph Ullum, Cheri French, and one of thier Siberian HuskiesThe dog show crowd, especially Siberian Husky people, have been buzzing about the dog poisoning story which began nearly a year ago.  Other websites such as the Huffington Post spouted derogatory dog show headlines that reflected badly on our sport.  They never told the story.  Cheryl French does, and succinctly sets the record straight.


Background:  Ralph Ullum and Cheryl French have been breeding and exhibiting Siberian Huskies for about 25 years.  They have bred over 100 AKC champions, multiple Best In Show dogs and National Specialty winners.  They have won the Top Twenty twice and received the Siberian Husky Club Of America award for Breeder of the Year three consecutive years.  Ralph is a retired 40 year career Chief Master Sergeant in the Air National Guard, and Cheri is a retired First Vice President at a major financial institution.  Neither Ralph nor Cheri have ever been involved in any controversy either in their professional or private lives.


TheDogPress interviewed Cheri who recapped the story as follows:  “We attended the Chicago cluster of shows in December.  We met our friends, Barbara and Lauren House from California there.  Lauren specials a dog that I bred but do not own, and I had 5 class dogs that she was going to help me with.  We showed at 9:00 on 12/17/10.


“Houston Clark was the judge and he had previously given Pixie (the Qualls bitch, co owned with others and a backer) a BIS, so we were pretty sure we were losing.  The dog that I bred was ranked #2 in breed points and Pixie was #3 with no chance of catching him.  My other dog was #1 in All-breed points and Dr. Qualls’ bitch was #2 and we all knew that was how it was going to be at year end.  But instead, Mr. Clark awarded my class dog BOB and my class bitch BOS over the specials.  Jessica Plourde, the handler of the Qualls’ bitch, was visibly up."


Alleged Poisoning Timeline:

Cheri said “We got back to the set up around 9:30. I went to breakfast with our friends but Ralph was staying there to meet his sister who lives in the area.  This had been prearranged as she testified at the trial, so Ralph did not stay back to "poison" anyone's dog.


“While we were gone, Ralph went to have a donut and coffee and on the way back, he had to pass Jessica's set-up to go to the rest room.  Her Aussie was barking, so he leaned over to pet it and he also petted Pixie (their Siberian) in passing.  He dropped his napkin, bent over to pick it up and went on to the men's room.  About 30 minutes later, Jessica approached him and said that someone had seen him feeding her dogs.  He said that was not the case but that he did pet them.  She told him to "stay away from her dogs."  He apologized and agreed.


“A little while later, John McCartney, the AKC Rep, approached Ralph and said that Jessica was accusing him of poisoning her bitch and that there were witnesses.  Ralph was flabbergasted.   The AKC Rep said that evidently, that morning, Jessica Plourde, the handler, had found white and pink powder by Pixie's crate.  She never bothered to tell anyone, but apparently saved it for later."


Cheri French explained that this information was in the police report and that Jessica Plourde also testified to that in the Bench Show Hearing.


“She (Plourde) also was not concerned enough to take the dog to the vet.  While Ralph was being questioned, Jessica found another piece of pill on the floor.  It was determined later, after the dog vomited, and Jessica took the half pill to Target for analysis, that it was one half of a Protonix, which is a human drug that you need a prescription for.  Neither Ralph nor I have a prescription for it.  Neither of us had ever heard of it but I learned that it would take hundreds of those pills to kill a dog the size of a Siberian."


AKC Rep Handles Poisoning Accusation:

French continued “When we returned from breakfast, Ralph told me what happened and I went to search for the AKC Rep John McCartney, who we know from having competed with him as a handler.  He flat out called Ralph a liar to my face, and said that if he lied about feeding the dog then he probably lied about giving it drugs too.  He, the AKC Representative, also refused to have a blood test done, after we (Barbara House and myself) requested it several times.  I also heard that he called a handler in Cleveland and told him over a speaker phone that Ralph had poisoned a dog.  So much for being unbiased."


Taking a deep breath, French said “Around 1:00, I was back at our setup, pretty hysterical and making phone calls.  A bunch of people were in Jessica's set up standing around the dog.  They had found a local vet to make the dog vomit.  They found chicken, a rubber band and the other piece of the pill.  When presented as evidence at the trial, the piece of pill was completely intact.  The expert witnesses said that the pill would have been completely dissolved within 2 plus hours and there would no way it could have still been intact when she threw it up.


“Then next thing we know, the police showed up and began interviewing people.  There was supposed to be a bench show hearing at 3:00, but by then, Ralph had been ARRESTED and so it was postponed until January.  Both of our attorneys told Ralph not to attend because anything that was said in that proceeding could be used in a court of law.  We were also told that if you don’t attend a Bench Hearing, you are automatically found guilty."


AKC Suspends Ullum:

Ralph Ullum was indeed suspended for 5 years and fined $1,000.00 but not for attending the hearing, not for anything he did wrong.  AKC’s action inadvertently fueled the defamatory gossip.  Many perceived that AKC believed letting Ralph Ullum “run loose at dog shows” was more dangerous than allowing Mary Wild to continue to handle dogs. {Ref #1} In actual fact, AKC suspended Ullum on the basis of a single competitor’s accusation but those in the fancy believed he was “guilty as hell” because AKC suspended him.   You may want to see what AKC said about Ralph Ullum when publishing his suspension.  (Insiders just log in, others much purchase your $39 per year key.)


Some speculated that he had to be guilty because after all, AKC knew he was going to trial yet the AKC’s legal department did not withhold suspension on Ullum as it did Mary Wild or AKC Judge Sharon Helstein {Ref #2} and many others.  Blame that on TheDogPress because we reported on both the Wild and Helstein cases.  Both were quickly found guilty by the dog fancy  - based on tangible, overwhelming evidence.  Yet AKC refused to suspend in either of those cases until the accused had been tried, convicted, and sentenced.  The message sent to the fancy about Ralph Ullum was loud and clear.  “Guilty, thus Suspended.”  If AKC had suddenly changed its controversial policy, it should have made a public statement to that effect.


French explained “When we had a real trial in a real court the judge found Ralph not guilty. The witnesses could not agree on what they saw, and essentially, the timeline proved that Ralph could not have given the pill.  Additionally, we were not even in attendance (proven by a receipt for breakfast) at the time the first crushed pills were supposedly found by the dog's crate at 6:30 in the morning."


Cheri French told TheDogPress “Overall, this has cost us $60,000.00 in attorney's fees, and it's not over.  We still have to address the AKC.  Also, it has damaged my reputation and we have both suffered.  Ralph lost 18 pounds this year and I had to go on antidepressants.  Numerous people who were former friends of ours, refuse to even speak to us due to the damage done by various chats and facebook comments."


Poisoned Minds:

Ralph and Cheri speculate that one or more of their competitors set them up.  While most dog show exhibitors compete vigorously inside the ring, when the judge has pointed to the winning dog, they congratulate each other and often have dinner together that night.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.  We have heard from several sources that David Qualls is a fierce competitor who does not take losses well.  We also learned that the person who backed Cheri French’s #1 dog had previously turned down a dog from the Qualls.  That is of course, less than “circumstantial evidence” but begs the question of who would be most likely to benefit if French’s dog could be removed from competition.


Unlike AKC, which immediately suspended Ullum for what was merely “failure to appear” at the bench hearing, TheDogPress waited to cover this story until a real court had heard the case.  Ullum was found innocent and we leave it to readers to come to their own conclusions about how and why he was accused of poisoning a competitor’s dog.  Cheri’s comment is one with which we would all agree – “I just think it's a sad day when people have to resort to this stuff."


Among the public support and “justice is served” congratulations Cheri French and Ralph Ullum received on the Siberian Husky chat list, Sheila Qualls had this to say.


Date:    Thu, 10 Nov 2011 08:32:45 -0500

From:    Sheila Qualls <sheila.qualls@GMAIL.COM>

Subject: Justice


As Ms. Fleming felt the need to share with this list, this is my one response as published on the SHCA CHAT:


It is interesting to see on what "side of the fence" everyone stands.


I have one statement, Mr. Ullum's not guilty verdict was predicated on the fact that our dog was not harmed, therefore it could not support a guilty verdict of animal cruelty. He is still very guilty of entering Jessica Plourde's set up and giving food laced with human medications to another person's dog. Thank goodness she was not harmed, as in Mr. Ullum's own testimony he commented that with his lifetime involvement with dogs, if he had wanted to harm her he certainly would know what to use. My thoughts are that this was a "spur of the moment" lack of judgment, and those products were just not available to him at the time.  We are thankful that Pixie was not harmed in order to see that "justice prevails".


Let's not forget that he has already been judged by a body of his peers, and AKC didn't base their decision on the fact that the animal was not harmed, but the action and intent. Thankfully they understand the seriousness of his actions. Five years suspension from AKC events is enough proof for me.


I am very sad that all parties had to go through this, for our sport but especially for our breed. Regardless of the personalities involved, put yourself in our place and ask how violated you would feel if someone had done this to one of your precious innocents.


(signed) Sheila Qualls


To which, Ralph Ullum and Cheri French replied:


Date:    Thu, 10 Nov 2011 11:51:06 -0500

From:    RALPH ULLUM <topaz782@DISHMAIL.NET>

Subject: Re: SHOWSIBE Digest


Hello all,


Obviously, we have been very silent through all of this because our attorneys advised us to do so.  I want to thank all of our "good friends" who have been very supportive through this very trying time.  For those of you so inclined to judge before you hear both sides of the story, I just hope you never have to defend yourself against something you didn't do.  I am not going to bore anyone with the gory details or get into the proverbial "p......." contest, because it is not worth it.  People will believe what they want to believe.


At this point, we plan to purchase the trial transcript which I will make available to anyone who wants to review it.  All I can say is that some of the statements made by Ms. Qualls are not factual, and you can read that for yourself in the transcript.  The AKC suspended Ralph because he was advised NOT to attend the Bench Show Hearing by both of our attorneys.  When you are not present, you are automatically guilty.  We will address that at some point in the future.


I am not going to comment on anything else going forward because I believe that this is not the forum.  If you would like to discuss anything with me, please contact me privately.


Regards, Cheri French of TOPAZ SIBERIANS


Reference Information: {1} Mary Wild Case, 3 part coverage ~ {2} AKC Judge Convicted, NOT Suspended EST 2002 © Dec 2011-1512



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