SALEM, Mass. — Lorelei Stathopolous sees her role as an animal-rights activist as a natural extension of being a Witch. “I defend the defenseless,” she said, and in particular she tries to protect dogs as a way to honor the two dogs hanged here in 1692, during the infamous witch trials. Acting in accordance with her beliefs is what she was doing Aug. 14, when she responded to a call about a dog in a hot car. Trying to intervene on the animal’s behalf got her arrested, leading to breathless coverage over local and national media outlets.Stathopoulos owns Crow Haven Corner, billed as “Salem’s oldest Witch shop,” and she’s also the founder of Salem Saves Animals. The manager Hex, another local witch shop called to ask her advice after noticing that a dog had been left in a car with only a slightly open window on a 98-degree afternoon. She recommended breaking the window. When she was told no one at Hex was comfortable doing that she told them, “Get the bat ready, I’m on my way down.”
She calculates that the dog had been in the vehicle for at least 21 minutes by the time that she arrived. Since she had notified police on the way to the area, she did not actually break the window. Instead, she tried to persuade officers that the animal was not as well off as they believed.
Salem’s animal control officer, who reportedly has both the training and equipment to take a dog’s temperature through the window, only works 30 hours a week. Stathopoulos urged the officers to call the fire department to extract the dog, and then to charge the car’s owner when he appeared. However, their assessment was that the dog was not in distress.
“I don’t blame the officers. I blame the training they have received” she said.
Noting that the dog was “panting heavily,” Stathopoulos attempted to give it water through the window before the owner arrived, over objections of the police officers. The dog didn’t take any, which may have been due to it not being thirsty or being excited by the attention, or even in extreme distress. That was never determined and the dog was not taken in for examination.
The dog’s owner was eventually given a warning. However, this was not enough for Stathopoulos. who informed the officers that if he wasn’t arrested that she should be. They obliged, charging her with disturbing the peace. The video below shows some of what occurred at that moment.
“I have no regrets for the arrest, or what I said. These are emotional beings,” Stathopoulos said, which is why she and others have been pushing for a more comprehensive animal protection law in Salem. “Even the Pope said that all dogs go to heaven.”
A stronger law would, she hopes, provide for better officer training with regard to animal issues. She recounted a time recently when a pit bull was found tied up and abandoned, and how the police response was, “Bring it down to the station, we’ll shoot it.” The city animal control officer once declined to assist a coyote caught in a fence, presumably because the training only deals with handling dogs.
What makes this story particularly good fodder for “shock jocks” and mainstream media reporters is the fact that there is going to be a trial, and it is scheduled for Oct. 26.
Stathopoulos wouldn’t agree to plea guilty, and the district attorney has opted to take the case to trial, although the charge can only amount to a fine of $150. The guilty plea would have included agreeing to stay away from the car owner, whose name she said that she has yet to learn.
She also estimates that she will have to pay her own attorney $3,-5,000, and that she will “lose thousands that day on readings” that she won’t be able to do at her shop. It is possible that the only beneficiaries of the trial will be the commentators who are watching the developments, such as conservative radio host Jeff Kuhner, who interview Stathopoulos on The Kuhner Report for the Boston station WRKO.
Kuhner admittedly was unfamiliar with modern-day Witches and, at one point, asked Stathopoulos if she were a Wiccan, but pronounced it “weeken.” He wasted no time comparing this “modern day witch trial in Salem” to the historic events of 1692, saying, “It didn’t turn out well for your ancestors then.” The segment can be heard in its entirely at WRKO’s site, and it appears that he based his understanding of the events on a WHDH video news segment.
Stathopoulos, who said she has extensive experience being interviewed, was not impressed with the coverage overall. “I do have a colorful personality,” she acknowledged, but making light of the Witch trials is inappropriate in her opinion. “Professional interviewers can make it go one way or another,” she said. “For them to ask, ‘Did the Witch do the right thing?’ is sort of appalling. Do [they] think we should leave the dog in the car?'”
Kuhner said several times during the segment that he did not agree with leaving the animal in distress, but thought the matter should have ended when the owner arrived and could turn the air conditioning on in the vehicle. He never answered the questions posed by Statholopoulos on whether he’d consider it the same if it had been a baby. Later on in the segment, Christian Day — owner of Hex outside of which the incident took place — pressed him on that point, and the host admitted that he believed the life of a baby is more important.
Witches and other Pagans should brace for another round of “Salem Witch trial” stories making the media rounds this fall when Stathopoulos has her day in court, Oct. 26, just in time for the busiest tourist season in America’s Witch city.