Kelly Carroll faces charges from the city of Vancouver after opening The PetBiz on May 16 in defiance of the governor’s order
VANCOUVER — NOTE: An earlier version of this story stating Carroll was selling her home to stay in business was incorrect. She is moving out of a larger home she rented and downsizing to save money in order to keep the business afloat. We regret the error.
On June 28, nearly 100 people spent the better part of an afternoon in front of the home of Vancouver Deputy City Attorney Kevin McClure, loud-hailing him on a public address system, singing worship songs, and demanding that he speak with them.
Six hours into the protest, the city’s lead prosecuting attorney, Jonathan Young, emerged to tell the crowd that he was taking over the case of Kelly Carroll, who faces up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine for opening her pet grooming business in defiance of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order.
“I would encourage all of you to leave Kevin and his family alone,” Young told the crowd, “as it’s no longer his decision whether or not my office continues to prosecute this case.”
Young, who is serving a week of unpaid furlough, declined to comment further on the case, though the gathered crowd promised they would turn their attention on him until he dropped the charges.
In a video streamed live on Facebook, and posted on the Patriot Prayer Youtube page, Kelli Stewart of People’s Rights of Washington can be heard telling Young “we will be protesting wherever your office is.”
The group then marched to Young’s house, where they chanted and waved flags for another couple of hours before heading home.
It was the latest in a series of public actions taken by Patriot Prayer and People’s Rights of Washington on behalf of Carroll.
The pet groomer opened The PetBiz at 5620 NE Gher Road in Vancouver five days before Gov. Jay Inslee’s order on March 23 that shuttered thousands of businesses around the state in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“I shut down. I thought, ‘fine, they’re gonna do this. I don’t want to lose my brand new business,’” the Battle Ground resident told ClarkCountyToday.com. “I applied for unemployment, and it’s still pending.”
Carroll says her unemployment check is one of thousands that ended up being sent to Nigeria as part of a massive fraud scheme anticipated to cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
“I’ll never see it,” she says.
Carroll says she spent $27,000 of her own money opening ThePetBiz, and had intended to invest another $6,000 to buy fitness equipment for her four-legged customers.
Instead, that money went into paying rent and other expenses for the business that wasn’t open.
“There’s groom shops that never shut down,” she says. “They just kept going.”
Faced with her mounting expenses and dwindling savings, Carroll made the decision in mid-May to reopen her business.
Only, she didn’t do so quietly.
She did it on May 16 with a rally that included a march and free food, announced well in advance on Facebook and attended by well over 100 people.
“As an American, I just thought, ‘you know what, I’m gonna stand up in the country that I think that I live in,’ — doesn’t feel like America anymore — and let the public know I’m open,” Carroll says. “You got riots, looting, burning businesses down, beating people up, and they come after peaceful people that protest their Second Amendment right.”
A police report filed about the protest noted there were over 100 people in attendance.
“Some of the people in attendance marched around the area carrying flags and signs,” wrote Lieutenant Chad Williams in his report, “but they were observant of traffic / pedestrian laws.”
Three days later, on May 19, Williams and another officer went to The PetBiz and spoke with Carroll.
According to the incident report, which Carroll has posted on a GoFundMe Page set up for her, the officers noted that their general response was to educate people about the governor’s order.
“But it was obvious that she already had a meaningful understanding of the situation due to her Facebook posts and videos,” wrote Williams.
Williams also noted that Carroll declined to provide her mailing address or date of birth, saying they could get it from her business license application.
“As Lt. Hatley and I were in the shop, a customer picked up her two dogs and paid for the service with a credit card,” Williams wrote, “so there was no mistaking that Carroll was open for, and conducting, business at that location.”
Gibson has taken up Carroll’s cause, noting that it represents one of only a handful of cases in which business owners have been charged for opening in defiance of the governor’s stay-at-home order, and the only case of a city bringing charges against someone.
“She had the balls to do it,” Gibson said in a video posted to Facebook on June 14, “and she did it for a bigger cause than herself, okay? So we’ve got to make sure that we support her.”
Gibson, along with several other groups, held a rally on June 20 at the Clark County Courthouse in support of Carroll and her business.
In addition to the May 16 reopening rally, the June 20 rally at the courthouse, and showing up at the homes of McClure and Young (which Carroll says she did not attend), support has come in the form of more than $10,000 in donations through a GoFundMe page.
“I cry every day,” Carroll says of the support she’s received. “It’s just amazing people send me all kinds of emails encouraging me to stay strong.”
Carroll says she recently made the decision to move out of her larger home and into an apartment in order to continue supporting her business and the upcoming legal fight.
“I had no choice but to make a choice that was better for the business pocketbook,” she says, “because this GoFundMe money is not going for my personal use. It’s definitely for crisis money, and it’s going to get used up.”
The response hasn’t been all positive though.
Carroll says she’s gotten letters from people saying they hope she goes to jail, contracts COVID-19 and dies. Her reaction, she says, is simply to not respond.
“I work on dogs and I work by myself,” she says. “But you can go to Walmart, where they filter 400 people at a time through there, thousands of people a day. It doesn’t make any sense.”
While she has her doubts about how serious the virus really is, Carroll says she practices social distancing and wears a mask when clients do have to come into the business.
“I’m not touching people. My hands are in water all day washing dogs,” Carroll says. “I open the gate and they’ll sit and talk to me a little bit. ‘What do you want me to do the dog, blah, blah, blah,’ but there’s no coming into my work area at all. I work by myself. It’s just so ridiculous, and it’s costing me thousands of dollars right now.”
The Vancouver Prosecuting Attorney’s office declined to comment on Carroll’s case, aside from confirming that Young would be taking it over from McClure once he returns from furlough.
Carroll is being represented by Vancouver attorney Angus Lee, and is currently scheduled to appear via remote teleconference for arraignment at Clark County Court on July 16 at 8:30 a.m.
The groups rallying in her defense plan another action at the Vancouver City Council meeting on July 6. Attendance at public meetings has been disallowed since the shutdown began, so it is unclear if any city council members would be in attendance in person.