Arrest of Growly brings feeling of vindication for furries with safety concerns.

by Patch O'Furr

A problematic record.

Growly, a long time Southern California furry fan (named Daniel Llamas in many public sources), was arrested on 7/10/2019.

(An update link was added to a section about him in a previous broadly-related article: R.C. Fox arrested for child pornography, furries question fandom connections.)

Little is open about what happened so far besides charges. It’s a little unusual to give a headline to an arrest, and people are presumed innocent in court. Summarizing Growly’s history is also hard to do with calm about laws and policies and incentive to rehabilitate. But there’s a lot of background making it worth sharing.

The main points start with a sex offense record from 2001, shared with another offender. Then in 2009, Growly was banned from FurAffinity following inappropriate messaging with a person claimed to be a minor (which left some facts murky, such as their identity.) Growly’s statement about it was posted to Wikifur.

The 2001 conviction led to serving over two years in jail, completing parole, and working to re-enter the furry fandom. A very active presence at events included volunteering as staff or running panels.

That background happened before I was active in fandom.  I didn’t know who he was when he chanced to ask me to pose for a photo at one of the first few cons I went to. It was taken by a furry known for thousands of similar photos.

Misinformation and knee-jerk reactions

If you look into attacks about a photo with a stranger at a con — you can see how calm understanding gets trashed by misinformation, panic, and malice with no intention to solve problems.

A decade after Growly finished parole, a conviction 18 years ago began to raise more, not less outrage (perhaps fed by a boom in new young members). While blunt criticisms rose on social media, it could frustrate a quieter section of event organizers.

There were concerns about rehab. How does that happen if people won’t let it? There were objections that attacking Growly’s attendance at 18+ adult events with no kids had nothing to do with safety for kids. There were opinions that PG-rated panels in full view of everyone had oversight. There were claims that his volunteering involved buying favor, but people who wanted him gone weren’t taking his place while getting volunteer’s work. The more aggressive it was, the more it was called bullying or clout-chasing — which had merit when alt-furries made him a stalking-horse to snipe at con hotels. (That’s pointless because hotels don’t care to interfere on behalf of non-customers, according to secure info I was tipped about Growly and Anthrocon.)

Why is this hard for cons?

On the other hand, objections about convention policies being too lax — and erring on the side of careful process instead of safety — have a compelling case following this new arrest.

Which leaves a standout question: why don’t cons err on the side of safety, and ban anyone with an offense?

I’m not a lawyer or con staff, but I can reveal a part in this. I didn’t take credit to avoid feeding trolls. In December 2018, Fur Con made the first con policy that I know of specifically banning people with a history of pedophilia or sexual violence. It came from a report I sent about a related issue (confirmed in secure info kept on file — because people get doxed and threatened for acting, at the same time as harassed for not visibly acting, as I’ve experienced while secure action happens behind the scenes.)

Their wording:

“AAE and FurCon do not permit membership or attendance by any individual who is a convicted sex offender, or appears on any federal or state sex offender registry. In addition, AAE and FurCon reserve the right, at the board’s discretion, to deny membership or attendance to anyone with a documented history of sexual violence, including inappropriate conduct towards minors.”

Personally, I support cons that refuse to be shouted down by angry mobs, where individuals can ban other individuals. That’s how you get:

  1. Religious/moral zealots taking illegitimate power to police spaces for consenting adults.
  2. Trolls weaponizing “think of the children” concerns to ruin events altogether, like Califur.

I’m all for working for a calm, organized, platform-level change in policy instead, like Fur Con did.

Unfortunately, corruption can happen and sometimes management won’t care.

That’s another topic, so I’ll leave the last word to informed sources. This issue can be a Catch-22 for cons by their nature. Being volunteer-based and run on a shoestring means lack of resources to do better, under threat of fatal liability. Con-goers have fun times and low costs because of the way things run. To ask for better, save callouts for last, and volunteer and pay them first.

Cosmo, a UK furry and con staffer, says:

“I think it’d be worth adding some context to Cheetah’s commentary. That conversation between him and Pepper strikes me as two sides of a coin – rehabilitation vs. punishment.

It makes even more sense when you factor in that, say, calling the police in a European city and asking “is <name> on the Sex Offenders Register” will likely get you a stern “I’m not telling you for legal reasons”.

In an EU member state, you’re not likely to find out about a furry engaging in crime unless it was serious enough to get printed in the newspapers.

And he’s very right about “a system where sending a nude pic to your 17yo partner” – UK has had that exact issue, and it’s entirely possible that someone who was 16-18 could have been convicted of a CP offence for sending a nude selfie to their then-partner of a similar age.

It doesn’t seem terribly fair to punish someone for their entire life for a stupid mistake they made as a kid.”

Whatever the story is with Growly this time, a lot of people can feel like they saw it coming. It will surely be part of any discussion to come, and perhaps organizers won’t be quite so forgiving again.

Like the article? These take hard work. For more free furry news, please follow on Twitter or support not-for-profit Dogpatch Press on Patreon.