Barton and Vernine Gipstein, of Midland, pleaded no contest in Fauquier County Circuit Court on Jan. 14 to one felony count each of torturing an animal causing death. The charges were in connection to an alleged puppy mill they operated at their home.
The Gipsteins’ pleas were part of plea agreements entered into with the commonwealth’s attorney. Barton Gipstein’s plea agreement stipulates that he be sentenced to no more than 30 days incarceration. Vernine Gipstein’s attorney declined to comment on her agreement. Both will be sentenced in Fauquier County Circuit Court on March 23, at 10 a.m. Both remain free on unsecured bonds.
A Class 6 felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or up to a $2,500 fine. The Code of Virginia statute concerning cruelty to animals also stipulates that a person convicted under the statute may be prohibited from possessing or owning companion animals.
The Gipsteins were arrested after an anonymous tip prompted Fauquier County Animal Control deputies to investigate conditions at a site on Folly Court near the Stafford County line on Sept. 11. There they seized 80 dogs in poor condition and that needed medical care and grooming. Some of the dogs were wheaten terriers, but many were mixed breed.
The dogs were placed with the Fauquier SPCA, which received an outpouring of donations from the public as a result.
Attorney Ryan Huttar is representing Barton Gipstein, 75. T. Brooke Howard is representing Vernine Gipstein, 69.