NC Dog Owner Files Lawsuit for Return of Her Pet Sold by County Pound

Bobo, as pictured on the WRAL website.

Bobo, as pictured on the WRAL website.

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.)

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31 Comments

  1. Mary

     /  April 10, 2015

    Kudos to the owners for filing suit. Litigation is the future of animal welfare. The more suits are won, the more precedents are set. If government animal control facilities will not do the right thing voluntarily, citizens will have to get the Courts to force them.

    Reply
  2. Alicia

     /  April 10, 2015

    although I do not find this a laughing matter, I do find it humorous that a county shelter has it down to the intake minutes on when the hold period is up. Is it such a busy shelter that they already had 5 dogs waiting for the kennel? Did they tell the new adopters that they couldn’t be there until after 3:19(time for example purpose only). And if they already were in the process of adopting, does that mean they started the adoption paperwork/process BEFORE the 3 day time period expired? If we are getting to the itty bitty details here, you would think that would make the application void since I doubt they only started it 2 minutes prior……

    Wow and by the new adopters logic, they too would not be qualified to have a dog. They knowingly denied a dog a home and also let another dog get PTS since it couldn’t find a home. This is a case were 2 dogs could have potentially had/found loving homes but instead 1 dog is a pawn in a very sick game….

    Reply
  3. The fact the buyers went through with the illegal sale shows they are not the “better family”. For the simple reason they ignored what the dog wants, and that is to go home with the family he loves. And let’s not forget they killed a dog by stealing this owned pet.

    It sounds like these people had an “in” with someone there, and that person ignored the good Sam’s communications in order to push through the theft for these people.

    It also sounds like these people are more interested in the bragging rights of having a pure bred rescue dog than the dog himself. Because, “shopping” for a pet is oh so immoral, right? Why buy a puppy from a reputable breeder who has documented health histories of the parents going back generations when you can steal a pet from his loving home?

    Federal law mandates a five day hold for government operated animal facilities. That cannot include the whole days of impound and processed out. And must include a Saturday. When are these hell holes going to be held accountable for blatantly ignoring federal law?

    Reply
    • Mary

       /  April 10, 2015

      Can you point me to the law re the 5 day hold? Our shelters here in FL hold only for 3 days. I would love to find some way to extend that. TIA

      Reply
      • The Federal law only applies to selling a dog to a “dealer.” States have the right to set their own hold periods (for example, in my state it is 48 hours) for general adoptions. I went and read the law myself after seeing these comments to make sure that the shelter where I volunteer was not breaking any Federal laws.

      • Rebecca, that is incorrect. The Federal Animal Welfare Act statute 2135 states:

        “Time period for disposal of dogs
        or cats by dealers or exhibitors
        No dealer or exhibitor shall sell or
        otherwise dispose of any dog or cat within a
        period of five business days after the
        acquisition of such animal or within such
        other period as may be specified by the
        Secretary.

        A shelter would qualify as an ‘exhibitor.’

  4. Another point, why was the good Sam passed over for these people? That adoption request had to be placed before the buyers. ACs are supposed to operate on “first come, first served” unless an adoper is declared unfit.

    This was definitely an inside job. And I pray the courts throw the book at AC and the buyers.

    Reply
  5. It’s part of the Animal Welfare Act. The entire act is over 200 pages long, but this page breaks down the part dealing with the transfer of ownership by ACs and rescues:

    http://www.yankee-shelties.com/animal-welfare-act.html

    Reply
    • Mary

       /  April 10, 2015

      Thanks for the link. Very interesting. Will have to read it over carefully to see if it will help us or if there is some loophole that lets county AC facilities off the hook.

      Reply
      • So by your own admission, you’re searching for loop holes to get around Federal law so you can sell the animals you claim to be rescuing before their rightful owners can have a chance to claim them? Makes me highly suspicious of what you’re doing, Mary

      • Um, Mary stated above that she’s looking to force her local shelters to EXTEND the hold time…..so how about you get off your high horse??

      • Mary

         /  April 23, 2015

        Excuse me, Tenya. Maybe you misunderstood. I am trying to find a legal requirement that will make county govt shelters in Florida EXTEND their hold time. So far I see only opinions on whether the AWA applies to govt shelters. Has anybody tested this in court? Any further information would be appreciated.

  6. If anyone is interested, here is a FB page about Bobo: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Get-Bobo-home/1409993732632080?fref=ts

    Reply
  7. Brielle

     /  April 12, 2015

    There is something fishy about this story to me. Why didn’t the dog’s owner go to the shelter herself to pick up the dog? The Good Samaritan is not the dog’s owner and the shelter had no guarantee that anyone was actually going to pick this dog up or that the dog was going to go back to a good situation. This was not the first time the dog got out and the original owner is lucky the dog was just adopted out to a different family and not struck by a car and killed. Do you have any idea how often shelters hear “just hold him one more day” or “I promise I’ll be there in an hour” and then no one shows? There is no winner here except the dog, who luckily was not euthanized or hit by a car.

    Reply
    • Brielle, you need to read the lawsuit to get all the details. Bobo was never in any danger of being put down. The shelter didn’t follow procedures when they were notified of his owner. It says plain as day, when the shelter becomes aware of the dogs owner, they must attempt to contact them and the 72 hour hold starts over. Shelters and rescue rejoice when animals can be reunited with their families and if I worked at that shelter, I’d be pissed that they allowed this to happen seeing as that the Eatons could have saved TWO dogs that day. One giving Bobo back to his family and two, getting one of the dogs that have been sitting there for months.

      Reply
      • I doubt if this would have saved some other dog’s life, unless there was another purebred Golden about to be put down, which is unlikely. The people who took the dog weren’t looking for just any dog, they wanted a purebred Golden Retriever without paying full price so a mutt would have been left to die in any case. Which makes them not very nice people, in my book. I’m not against purebred dogs, mind; I’m in a wheelchair and planning to get a service dog in the future, and I want a Golden or Goldendoodle because I’m looking for specific traits that will make a good service animal. But if I just wanted a pet, I’d take a mutt from the pound any day.

  8. Renee'

     /  April 13, 2015

    Hummmm…. something does sound fishy here… Maybe we should uncover salaries for the people running this pathetic show. Sounds like they may be getting some perks for possibly intentionally focusing on the adoption (illegal adoption) of purebreds and killing off the non purebreds by not focusing as much attention on them and getting them adopted out as quickly as they do a purebred. Very interesting, indeed! Subpoena their records & salaries/bank account info!! You may end up saving more animals by getting these people out of there! Could it be that “THEY’RE” not in an animals best interest??

    Reply
  9. Did Bobo’s original owner contact the pound when she was looking for him? Isn’t the pound the first place you are supposed to contact when your pet is lost?

    Reply
    • Brandy

       /  April 16, 2015

      I know of a shelter once that was contacted about an owner missing a male Samoyed. They said no we don’t have that dog here. They did however happen to have found a female Samoyed.
      Turns out it was the missing male Samoyed but by the time the owner realized the female was actually her male he had already been adopted out.

      Reply
  10. She was new to the area, and thought contacting other government agencies was enough. She had also paid for Bobo to be microchipped. So not realizing the need to stand on top of AC is understandable.

    The Eatons also volunteered at this AC, and are friends with most of the staff and board. Everyone there knew them an knew they wanted a pure bred Golden depsperately.

    The Eatons were also offered to have every last penny of expenses paid and a pure bred Golden puppy more than once before this went to court. They didn’t even see fit to respond to the offers. They also have two children, one of whom has a disability (this can be found of their names and NC, and they put that information up themselves).

    I cannot believe they think putting their children in this situation was going to end well. It was a lawyer contacting them with those offers. Court was going to happen, and they damn well knew it.

    Reply
  11. Dani

     /  April 13, 2015

    Clearly the Eatons don’t really consider their dogs to be family, not like Bobo’s true family. If they did, they would understand that just 3 days and two minutes ago, Bobo was with his family, they miss him, and NOTHING would have brought him more joy than being reunited with his family!

    Reply
  12. Dani

     /  April 13, 2015

    I’m a school teacher, and I am APPALLED that a teacher is imparting such character on her own children, as well as the children she’s been trusted to educate and grow into responsible citizens. Since this is all over the news, how do you walk into your classroom each morning and show your face? How do you explain your actions to your students? Do these people feel such a superior level of entitlement over others that in their minds their actions are justified?
    I’m sure they never expected the “little guy” to find so much support and power. THANK YOU, to the lawyer who is seeing this through.
    This is wrong on so many levels. These people TALK like they knew Bobo’s family and saved him from a life of despair and traumatic abuse, when in reality he was led into a shelter by a Good Samaritan (with written documentation of his “poor”–i.e. Well-groomed– condition upon intake), and his family found him three days later. So many written and unwritten rules have been violated here. I’m also offended that they put themselves on a list with the shelter because they really want to “rescue a golden retriever”… Well, you “saved” a dog that didn’t need saving, so mission not accomplished.

    Reply
  13. Let’s keep sharing this story, calling and sending letters to the county officials! Together, we can help get Bobo back home to his family where he belongs!

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/1460954400810385/

    Reply
  14. Update from the Bring Bobo Home FB group:

    New evidence shows Bobo was never placed on their Pet Harbor page and he was hidden while at AC. Meaning, no one looking for their lost dog would have been able to find him while there or see him listed online. The Eatons already made a public statement saying they saw him “late Thursday”.

    The Eatons were also offered $5,000 (honest money) and a Golden of their choice (pup or adult) if they would return Bobo. They did not respond in any form whatsoever.

    Reply
  15. JTK

     /  February 10, 2016

    I was extensively involved in this case. The Plaintiff has since that time voluntarily dismissed her case. Like most cases, the media did not have all of their facts straight and the civil complaint also did not have all of the facts straight. People read news articles and pleadings in lawsuits and form opinions without having all of the facts. This case went through 9 months of extensive discovery.
    The civil complaint cites only parts of the actual law that was applicable in the case, not the entire statute or section, and misrepresents what the law states in its entirety. The dog was brought to Cumberland County Animal Control on Wednesday, January 21, 2015. When it was found, it did not have any identification whatsoever. The 72 hour holding period commenced the following day (Thursday) and ended at the close of business for Animal Control on the third day business day, a Saturday. The owner lived within 15 minutes of the shelter and worked on the same street that that shelter was on, less than a half mile away. At one time she worked across the street from the shelter, yet denied she even knew of its existence. The good samaritan surrendered the dog to the shelter and got on an adoption list but did not arrive at the appointed time to adopt the dog. At no time prior to the new family adopting the dog did the good samaritan have the name, address, or phone number of the owner. He only knew where she lived but could not give Animal Control a house number. The dog was scanned for a microchip prior to being adopted but no microchip was found and no evidence was produced in the form of medical records indicating a chip had ever been put in the dog. Contrary to what has been asserted here, Animal Control is not required to extend the 72 hour holding period if they gain more information about the owner. The owner’s remedy is to come to the shelter within 72 hours. In this case, she made no effort until she was informed the dog had been adopted, 6 days after he went missing.
    The dog was allowed to roam free during the time that she had it in violation of the County’s leash laws and was picked up at the nearby Fire Station on at least four prior occasions. She got a new dog within a month of filing the lawsuit and yet she continued the litigation for 8 more months. During that time, her new dog was seen on numerous occasions in her yard, with no fence, no electronic fence either. Even after losing her other dog, she continued to violate the leash laws with the new dog.
    But for the previous owner failing to follow the leash law, failing to have identification on her dog, failing to microchip her dog, and failing to come to the shelter within 72 hours, the dog would still be hers. She did not show any initiative to getting her dog back until it had been missing for 6 days. She failed on multiple levels to live up to her obligations as a pet owner. She was not able to produce any medical records for the dog other than a rabies vaccine certification. There were no other documented veterinary records. No record of parvo, distemper, leptosirosis, or bordatella vaccines. No evidence of the dog being on a heartworm preventative. The dog had multiple instestinal parasites for which he had to be treated, including tapeworms…. but you won’t see any of this in the media.

    Reply
    • Selena

       /  February 12, 2016

      Well JTK it is easy to hide behind a profile that doesn’t give your name. Now there’s “multiple intestinal parasites for which he had to be treated, including tapeworms….but you won’t see any of this in the media.” ??? Before it was fleas and an ear infection. So, if an ill dog cannot be adopted out how was it that the Eaton’s were allowed to “adopt” such an ill dog? Because as the Eaton’s previously….they got Bobo with an ear infection and fleas. You sure appear to be just an immoral and uncompassionate as the Eaton’s. Two little girls, 8 and 10 years old, had their hearts broken, their best friend taken away from them. Tell me how these little girls could ever be comfortable with having another pet after the shelter system failed them and a firefighter and a teacher kept their beloved Bobo? Do you have any idea how this affected these little girls? You can post what you want but how dare you attack Ms Davis at this point. She would have continued with her quest to regain Bobo but her human children were suffering from the effects of it. Shame on you JTK. Shame on you.

      Reply
  16. Alice

     /  February 11, 2016

    She had Bobo microchipped. If you are so “involved” in this case you also know the workers refused to scan Bobo in front of anyone like normal people would when there is a dispute. They took him to a back room.

    He is photographed wearing a collar when he was dropped off. That alone extended the hold, tags or not. They had the owner’s information before they opened. Chris Eaton had most of the paperwork completed before 9:02 AM. They opened at 9:00. It takes more time to bring an animal to the front than that.

    See, it’s against the law to adopt out sick animals to the public there. Please pick a stance and stick to it please. Was he sick and this was a doubly illegal act, or was he healthy and all you can do is smear a single mother and two little girls on order to defend the Eatons of stealing their only dog when they had two at home? I’m also going to point out the photo above is Bobo in the lobby when he was dropped off. He is clean, healthy, and an ideal weight.

    Bobo ran out by her when she opens the front door. Are you really suggesting anyone who has their pet get out once deserves to have said pet stolen by someone wanting a “rescue” purebred for a trophy? Because that is all Bobo is to them. A trophy to add to their collection of Goldens.

    Reply
  17. Amanda

     /  February 11, 2016

    Bobo was microchipped. That stands as permanent identification across all fifty states. Dogs slip their collars, as well as break them. Finders remove collars and dog licenses when they want to steal dogs. As extensive as you may feel you were in this case, you are wrong.

    I am a rescuer, I have pretty much seen it all when it comes to animals and what people do to them. This family loved their dog, the shelter and the Eatons are to blame,

    Whatever you have decided based on your “facts” is again wrong. The shelter stole that dog from this family, and the couple who adopted him facilitated that theft. No matter how you spin the care for Bobo prior, it is NOT the shelter’s place to say thy can no longer have their dog. They don’t get that right for a reason. They abuse the power.

    The proper channels and protocols should have been followed, and normally would have been followed had they not had an eager PRE DENIED adopter waiting in line watching the second hand on his stop watch.

    Those are my facts.

    Reply
  18. JTK you are a piece of work. Hide behind your fake profile to slander Niki and try to justify the Eatons stealing a dog from his family Classic troll. You know what was made perfectly clear through the media? 1. Cumberland County shelter picks and chooses when they will follow the law/procedure, 2. The Eatons are liars and said they would be willing to talk to Niki – which they then took down their FB page and went into hiding, 3. Bobo was HEALTHY, chipped and well trained and 4. the Eatons couldn’t adopt from a rescue, so stealing a dog was their next best choice. I guess if you have money you are entitled to do what the hell you want to do in Hope Mills.

    Reply

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