I'm taking some names out for obvious reasons...
This is the story of a boxer that was rescued 10 months ago and the unfortunate circumstances that have led me to contact you.
Zeus was a sweet 3 1/2 year old boy when he was rescued by RBR from the Wake County Shelter in Raleigh, NC. He was heartworm positive but, otherwise, in good health. From the records turned over to the shelter by his previous owners, we traced him back to a breeder in Florida. He had been in 4 different homes.
Zeus spent about 2 months in foster care while he was neutered and treated for heartworms. We received an application for Zeus from a man by the name of Mr. Smith who was older and had some physical limitations but had boxer experience and seemed to be an appropriate adopter for Zeus, a laid back, friendly boxer.
After a home visit and a short trial adoption, Zeus was adopted by Mr. Smith on July 1, 2008.
In April, 2009, RBR received a phone call from a neighbor of Mr. Smith who had picked Zeus up roaming the neighborhood. She said that she had seen Zeus on several occasions in the previous weeks and was under the impression that he had been roaming for about 2 weeks.
The neighbor returned Zeus to RBR and Mr. Smith was contacted. We were informed by Mr. Smith that Zeus had not been roaming for two weeks but had gotten out several times. When asked why Zeus was obese (gained 13 lbs in 9 months), Mr. Smith laughed. When asked about the hair loss of Zeus's back, Mr. Smith said Zeus had been "rubbing against the couch." He was later diagnosed with alopecia by our vet.
Another neighbor informed us that Mr. Smith would regularly open the back door and let Zeus out - no leash, no fenced yard. Obviously, the decision was made not to return Zeus to Mr. Smith. Per our adoption contract, dogs are not allowed to roam, leash laws must be followed and the dog must wear identification at all times (Zeus did not have a tag with Mr. Smith's ID). Also per our adoption contract, we can reclaim ownership of the dog at any time if the contract is breached.
This is the part that rescues need to be concerned with....This is when someone with another local rescue, got involved. She is an attorney and agreed to take Mr. Smith's case, suing Richmond Boxer Rescue for the return of Zeus.
Her argument in court was that the adoption contract signed by Mr. Smith and RBR was "contrary to Virginia law" (her words). She said that Mr. Smith "invested and cared for" Zeus (the dog he was allowing to roam free less than 1/2 a block from the on-ramp to Interstate 95). The judge asked her "wouldn't the dog have ended up dead or at animal control if he hadn't been returned to the rescue?" Ms.'s answer: "That's not the function of Richmond Boxer Rescue."
She has set into motion case law that could potentially alter the way all rescues and shelters conduct business. If contracts can not be enforced, how do rescues continue to operate?
Ms. mentioned that they were changing the wording of their contract. Her argument, though, is that the "rescue's rights are terminated upon adoption." If that is true, NO contract would be enforceable, regardless of how it was worded.
Shelters and rescues - please get the word out. People like Ms. are harming the good work that we are all trying to do. Rescues need to work together, not against each other for monetary gain or whatever the reason may be. I know times are tough but suing another rescue group is unconscionable. Unfortunately, because of the lies that were told on the stand (by Mr. Smith, his witnesses and even our own witness who did not want to damage her relationship with her next door neighbor), Zeus will be returned to Mr. Smith.
We will likely be filing an appeal but costs are a major concern. Our lawyer graciously donated her time but the costs going forward, even without attorney fees, will be prohibitive. Follow the link below and click on "Chip In" if you would like to help with court costs. http://boxerrescue.chipin.com/zeuss-appeal
Please, everyone.....say a prayer to whatever Gods or Goddesses you believe in for Zeus as I honestly believe that this sweet, friendly, wonderful dog could likely be dead in a matter of weeks because of the actions of Ms. and Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith claimed in court to have shoulder and knee problems, depression and a brain tumor. The only problem that was mentioned to us when Zeus was adopted was that Mr. Smith was recovering from shoulder surgery. This man is not capable of caring for this dog and will not be able to handle walking Zeus outside every time he needs to go out. He will be back to just opening the door and letting Zeus go in a matter of days.