A lawsuit has been filed by a dog owner against Cumberland Co and the couple who bought her dog from the county pound, despite all parties knowing the dog had an owner who wanted him back. The lawsuit provides a detailed timeline of events but I’ll provide a summary.
Bobo the golden retriever wandered away from his home on January 21, was found by a Good Sam and taken to the Cumberland Co pound. The Good Sam said he would take Bobo back after the mandatory 3 day holding period if no one claimed the dog because he felt certain there was a local owner due to Bobo’s excellent condition and manners.
Meanwhile Bobo’s owner was physically searching for her family’s lost pet and networking with neighbors, including the local fire department. Through the owner’s efforts, the Good Sam was made aware of her name and address while he was on his way to pick up Bobo from the pound on January 26. He stopped by the owner’s residence but she was not home at the time. He left his card and called the pound to advise he was on his way and to provide them with the owner’s name and address. The staffer he spoke with told him if he didn’t arrive within the next 10 minutes – when the 3 day holding period expired – the dog would be sold to someone else. The good Sam arrived at the pound 12 minutes later and found a man there in the process of adopting Bobo. The Good Sam explained again to pound staff that the dog’s owner was known and told the potential adopter as well. The adopter said he could provide a better home for Bobo than the actual owner and decided to move forward with the adoption, which the staff agreed to process.
State law and Cumberland Co code require pound staff to make reasonable efforts to contact the owner of an impounded pet, which the lawsuit alleges the county did not do. And:
Like many shelters, Cumberland County gives owners three business days to claim a pet from the shelter. A county ordinance requires that timeline be extended another 72 hours “if the owner is known.”
The lawsuit alleges that the county only held Bobo for the initial 3 day period then ignored information regarding the owner’s identity and sold him improperly. Bobo’s family is heartbroken and tried to get their dog back without resorting to legal action but both the county and the couple who bought Bobo ignored communication from the family’s attorney. The couple reportedly stated in an email to WRAL that they had narrowly missed out on some previous attempts to adopt other rescue goldens and so placed their name on the list for Bobo. They further stated that they could not return Bobo to his family “in good conscience” because it’s not in the dog’s “best interest”.
While the buyers seem to vaguely allude to some perceived lack of fitness upon the part of Bobo’s owners, the county was more specific, and in typical fashion, and put the blame for Bobo’s loss on the family:
“Cumberland County Animal Control followed its procedures in dealing with the stray dog dropped off at the Animal Shelter with no identifying tags or microchip. The impounded animal was not claimed by its owner after the required three-day holding period and no owner’s name or address was provided to the department. The dog then became available for adoption and we followed our procedures for that process.
“It is upsetting to lose a pet and we sympathize with the Davis family. We encourage pet owners to have their animals microchipped. All pet owners should make sure their pets are wearing proper vaccination and identifying tags. Should your pet go missing, contact or visit Animal Control immediately.”
Although it’s not 100% clear to me, it sounds as if the county may be denying the Good Sam provided Bobo’s owner information over the phone within the 3 day holding period and that when he arrived at the pound to provide it again, he was 2 minutes past the holding period and the county was within its legal rights to sell the dog. And despite the county’s obvious attempt to smear the owners, the worst they could come up with is an implication that the owners failed to have tags on the dog (which is denied in the lawsuit).
It seems obvious what the right thing is here. It should have been obvious to both the county and the buyer at the time the adoption was being processed. Cumberland Co killed 63% of the dogs and cats it took in last year so perhaps it’s not surprising to learn that staff failed to do right by a pet in its care. I don’t know what the buyers’ excuse is except for the fact that they didn’t get some previous rescue goldens they wanted and were apparently determined to get this one, even if he didn’t need rescuing. The pettiness and mean-spiritedness from both the county and the buyers is shameful. And poor Bobo has been needlessly separated from his family all these months.
Bobo’s owner is seeking his return in the lawsuit. If the court rules in her favor, perhaps Cumberland Co will think twice next time about breaking up a family. One hopes anyway. Watch this space.
(Thanks Clarice for the links.)