THE END OF ADOPTIONS FOR VILLALOBOS?
Rules are put forth for a reason. As a licensed animal shelter here in New Orleans, we follow the same protocol as other local facilities. Taking in strays and neglected dogs has become our priority and not just Pit Bulls...ALL DOGS. Dogs are brought in, the proper forms are filled out and signed by person(s) bringing in the dog. Dogs are scanned for a microchip, given vaccinations and ANY and ALL medical attention if necessary. Because we have more liberties than most shelters, we are not in a time crunch and do not have to euthanize a dog due to lack of space or in a certain amount of time. The owner has plenty of time to come and look for their dog. Most shelters give under a week. We do not have a set time. Most dogs are with us for at least 3-4 months because we heart worm treat EVERY DOG.
In January of 2013, we had a dog brought to us. The man said "He's a great dog, I wish I could keep him but my other dogs and him aren't getting along" He explained that he had gone to his local shelter and they informed him that the dog would be euthanized walking in the door as they had a "no Pit Bull adoption" policy. So we took the dog in and signed him in as an "owner turn in". He was a black male Pit Bull, no tags or collar or no microchip. He was pretty thin so it took us about 2-3 months go get him up to par, neutered, chipped, etc and ready for adoption. We got lucky and found this dog a home within 4 months or so.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. A woman and a man (her son) came to our warehouse very irritated. They came at me pretty hard and said I had their "stolen" dog and that they saw him on TV. They showed me a photo and said it was the dog we called "Beaucoup" on one of our episodes I couldn't tell from the picture if it was the same dog but I began to explain Beaucoup's story and how we got him. The woman and her son were less than nice. I tried to calm them down and I kept saying "we don't even know if this is the same dog" and that "do you realize if it is, we saved him from being killed??" I tried to explain that I had done everything by protocol and within the proper legalities and they became more irrational. I told them that if this is indeed their dog, that I am very sorry and completely understand how upset they must be, but I had the dog for 4 months with no chip, no tag....how was I supposed to find them?? Despite them both being very angry with me (and despite me telling them I'm the one who kept this dog from dying), I still felt for them but also realizing that our adopters have had this dog for over a year now so they were attached too, but.....I would make contact with the adopters to see if they could at least bring Beaucoup by in order for us to identify him. Nothing was calming them down and eventually they would bring NOPD to our facility who also ended up telling them I was legally in the right. I even contacted the sheriff's dept where this "burglary/stolen dog" incident took place and they confirmed it was simply a case of a dog breaking out of the trailer and NOT a stolen dog. So at this point there was no longer a need to upset my adopters and drag them into this.
Now we've been threatened with a lawsuit. They have hired an attorney named Marta Alison Richards out of Baton Rouge who has come by the warehouse threatening to have me arrested, suing me for the "profit" I made from the "sale" of this dog ($200 adoption fee) and also whatever else I "profited" from by having this dog. She also threatened to basically smear my name over "other media outlets" and bring in other animal rights activists. But more importantly the concern is this. If this goes to court and a judge rules that the dog must be returned, what will this do to the shelter system overall? How will any public, county, city, parish animal shelter or rescue ever feel comfortable or safe taking in another dog? And what about adopters? Who will want to adopt a dog knowing that years could go by and suddenly an "owner" will come forward saying "you have my stolen dog". We have followed the rules to a tee. We work no different than any other public shelter. Just think, according to this attorney, every animal shelter is harboring "stolen property" and has the potential to be "trafficking stolen property". Just imagine those of you who run or work at an animal shelter....some attorney showing up at your gates threatening to have you arrested because her client says "that's my dog" (and again....no proof of ownership) and yanking it from its new home that it was legally adopted into.
Despite the personal ramifications this will have on Villalobos, imagine what it will do to every animal shelter. I guess no good deed goes unpunished