“Accomplished photographer and undercover investigator”
Briar Storms, also known online as Briar Theelsmom, 60, died on September 11, 2014 in King County, Washington, after a long struggle with cancer.
Said Humane Society of the U.S. senior law enforcement specialist Eric L. Sakach, “She asked that I post a Facebook message after her passing to let all her friends know that she’d ‘left the building.’ She also wanted me to mention a few things about her past work that would give you a better idea about who she was. Maybe you knew Briar as an unabashed liberal, as a Frank Zappa fan, as someone with a wicked sense of humor, or as someone who really cared about the environment and who was passionate about animals.
Investigated greyhound racing
“Those things are all true, of course,” Sakach said, “but how many of you knew that Briar was also an accomplished photographer and undercover investigator who infiltrated the greyhound racing industry in order to document the cruel use of rabbits as live bait by trainers?
“That’s not all. I can now tell you that Briar was one of a handful of courageous undercover investigators who worked with HSUS beginning in the late 1970s and beyond to successfully infiltrate clandestine, organized dogfighting rings involving some of the biggest players in that illegal bloodsport.
“Months and months of difficult and often dangerous work in different parts of the country enabled us to amass needed intelligence and obtain photographs documenting the scope and brutality of a violent subculture that few knew existed. Those efforts helped to educate the public and pass needed legislation. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with Briar on a number of those operations.”
Dogfighting & cockfighting
The ANIMALS 24-7 archives indicate that Storms and Sakach were involved in undercover investigations beginning in 1977 which over the next 19 years brought the arrests of more than 500 dogfighting and cockfighting suspects.
Using the screen name Tropical Storms, Storms was in recent years a noteworthy contributor to Dawn James’ Craven Desires blog about pit bull attacks and dogfighting, describing some of her undercover investigations in detail.
“The dogs want to be there and love to fight,” Storms posted. “They really have no choice, as they have been selectively bred for over 200 years to do, or want to do, nothing else. The only bulldogs I’ve ever encountered who did not want to fight were ‘cold’ individuals who had no more clue about their genetic ancestry than your average multi-line mutt. In other words they were just normal dogs, if not very smart ones.”
Of the risks of doing undercover work, Theelsmom said, “If you don’t constantly and consistently have your wits about you, long before you ever get there, you do something else. There is no shortage of animal issues in need of attention and you would choose one of those areas rather than this one.”
To lose someone who is committed to something that is firmly believed in and in no way advances his/her life is one of the most difficult persons to replace. Altho I was not someone who knew of this wonderfrul work, I feel the loss and know that she will never be replaced. Everytime her friends do something that allows an animal to have a better life, it is an honor to her memory.
Wow! I’ve been reading her insightful comments at Craven Desires and never knew. God bless her.
It’s a shame she was not able to write her memoirs, as it could have shed quite a bit of light into this clandestine and brutal industry.
Patricia Davis says
Dear Friends, Someone just forwarded to me your Obit of Briar Storms (Theelsmom) from September. I am SO happy that someone took the time to give her the credit she deserves for all the undercover work she performed on behalf of animals. We were the best of buddies back around 1993 for a few years. We both lived in the western NC mountains, and bonded over black humor, vegetarianism, animal rights activism and cigarettes! We lost touch after I married and she moved to Florida to take care of her dying mother. Again, thanks for the great piece on her work.