Case closed against Terry Cullen, but he is still fighting

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Terry Cullen was known as an expert on reptiles, and was trusted by agencies like the Wisconsin Humane Society. However, that changed when Cullen was arrested for sexual assault, and hundreds of reptiles were confiscated. Cullen left the state, but stopped by the FOX6 studios, where he said this story is far from over.

It all started in May of 2010, when police raided three buildings on Milwaukee's south side -- armed with a search warrant after a sexual assault allegation.

Police went into buildings owned by Cullen, and came out with more than 200 snakes, crocodiles, lizards and the like.

Three years later, a dozen charges relating to the storage of reptiles were dismissed. The sexual assault charge against Cullen, made by a woman applying to be an intern, was reduced to a misdemeanor. Prosecutors said the accuser had credibility problems.

In the end, Cullen pleaded no contest to battery and disorderly conduct.

"I had run out of money. I had run out of people to borrow from," Cullen told FOX6 News.

The personal toll, Cullen says, has been great. He is still emotional about his two pets, Tibetan Mastiffs that were shot and killed by police during the warrant search.

"My plans are to try to insure that this never happens to someone else," Cullen said.

Cullen says he has plans to try to get his animals back -- some of which are now in zoos, and many have died.

"We know that many, many, many of them have died, and they died very quickly and the bulk of these animals were animals we have had for more than 25 years. Not only did they have no expertise, they had no idea what they were doing and it was hysteria, absolutely hysteria," Cullen said.

When city and state officials took the animals, some were considered rare, even endangered and possibly dangerous. They ended up at the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission -- at least temporarily.

Cullen alleges a lack of knowledge resulted in the death of some of his reptiles. MADACC says some of Cullen's reptiles were very ill and in bad condition when they came in, and for that reason, 16 died.

MADACC says it euthanized 273 rats and mice that would have served as reptile food.

Several months later, MADACC euthanized 30 snakes due to lack of space.

"We had taken animals that no one wanted -- animals that had been injured, animals that had lead poinsoning, animals that had been deformed for other reasons or problems and gave them homes and actually got many of them back into the condition where they could breed," Cullen said.

Cullen says he is talking with lawyers about a possible federal civil rights violation case against the city of Milwaukee.

"There's no question about it. My life has been ruined," Cullen said.

Cullen now lives out of state, and is trying to get his reputation back.

"Do I have any animals? Personally? I do have some animals out of state. These are animals that were never taken. I had animals located in another facility, and these were animals that were never taken," Cullen said.

"The fact that they can walk into your house. They didn't walk. They ripped the doors out. And do what they did is unconscionable. At worst it should have been a knock on the door. 'Hey do you have any animals? You have 30 days to move them out,'" Cullen said.

The criminal sexual assault allegation against Cullen was undoubtedly one reason that didn't happen. Instead, three years later, the case is closed.

However, Cullen says his wounds are open, and so is his fight to get his animals and reputation back.