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Maryland Theft of Pit Bull - More Than Meets The Eye?

Maryland Couple Arrested For Theft of Pit Bull

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More Than Meets The Eye?

Is There Any Legal Defense To Theft of a Neglected Dog?

A Maryland couple has been arrested for the theft of a Pit Bull, as initially reported here.  My first thought was dogfighting, perhaps it was stolen to act as a bait dog. I posted this story on the PBLN Facebook page, and was advised by locals that in fact, the husband and wife were trying to get a neglected dog out of an abandoned house.  This was not mentioned in the original news report.

"In fairness, these people took the dog because she was being horribly neglected in the abandoned home that she was staying in and animal control wasn't helping."

In one Facebook post, the facts were turned on their head, and a totally different picture emerged of what happened.  I have been faced with the same decision: whether to "take" a dog from a neglected environment or see it suffer because Animal Control cannot legally impound the dog.  "He has food and water now, there is nothing we can do." I imagine a lot of you out there have thought about it. It's a great temptation, and then, like the Maryland couple, in trying to do good, you get caught.

Which brings us to the topic of this post: can the charges of first degree burglary and theft be defended in court? A lot depends on the actual facts of the case: how neglected was the dog? Is there a record of report to Animal Control? 

I have discussed this issue with animal law lawyers around the country, and if there was true animal abuse, there are some legal avenues for defense.  First, there is the question of intent: it's not as if the person taking the dog in this situation has the sole intent to take the dog for his own benefit. It could be argued that there was no intent to steal the animal but a need to prevent a continuing crime-animal cruelty. If Animal Control was in fact called, it evidences an attempt to stop the crime and provide care for the animal as required under law.

Read more: Maryland Theft of Pit Bull - More Than Meets The Eye?

Fiala v. Dogs Deserve Better - The Pleadings

Fiala v. Dogs Deserve Better

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DDB Wins First Round As Judge Denies Plaintiff's TRO and Replevin

Forgery Claim Dismissed-Plaintiff attorney Moves to Withdraw

Fiala Moves to Continue Summary Judgment Hearing

For those of you who have not been following this story, there is an ownership battle between Dr. Fiala and Dogs Deserve Better playing out in King County Court in Seattle.  Both sides have been utilizing social media to promote their side of the story. Fiala's side can be seen here, while Dogs Deserve Better makes their case here.  The case surrounds the ownership of a Pit Bull Joel. The short story is that DDB rescued the dog and gave it to Fiala to care for as a foster.  Eventually an adoption contract was signed by Fiala with alterations saying the dog would be chained outside. DDB then decided to repossess the dog.

The Most Recent Motions

Plaintiff's attorney has moved to withdraw, and the forgery claim has been dismissed. These pleadings and their analysis can be found at the link here. Fiala has also moved, on her own without an attorney, to continue the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment so that her new attorney will have time to prepare.  The Motion can be read here.  The trial is still scheduled for October.

What does this mean? It appears that Fiala and her attorney did not agree about how the case should proceed and/or the merits of the case, and counsel felt the need to withdraw effective July 5th.  The case will continue with either new counsel or with Fiala representing herself.  The forgery claim has been dismissed "with prejudice" meaning it cannot be brought again.  Which is not surprising to me, since I don't really think a cause of action exists for "forgery."  It is simply an allegation in the contract claim. 

What the Relevant Pleadings Reveal

I recommend you read all the pleadings-they will give you both sides of the dispute

Complaint

Fiala filed a complaint, which can be read in its entirety here. The complaint basically asks for Joel to be returned to her, and alleges the facts upon which she relies for that claim. While Fiala admits interliniating the adoption contract to add that Joel would be outside ocassionally and that visits would have to be prearranged, she denies striking through the word "will not" regarding outside penning. She alleges the "will not" strike through was altered by DDB, and actually adds a count for forgery in the complaint.  Plaintiff alleges a breach of the adoption contract, conversion (civil theft), replevin (a request for the dog back) and violation of Washington's Consumer Protection Act in soliciting funds for Joel's veterinarian bills without first registering with the secretary of state. The Complaint essentially alleges that the falling out over Joel was a result of a letter that was sent by Fiala on April 7, 2011 to the National Organization raising questions about the solicitation of funds and failure to reimburse Fiala for veterinarian expenses.

Read more: Fiala v. Dogs Deserve Better - The Pleadings

Cane Corso Mauling Transformed to Pit Bull Killing

Cane Corso Killing Reported by New York Times Transformed Into Pit Bull Attack

Illustrates Media Bias

The New York Times reported a Cane Corso attack killing a child in which the dog was apparently trained by one of the residents as a guard dog. The full story can be read here. It's a tragic story, but training that size dog to attack and then leaving it alone with children?

In my newspaper today, the Associated Press reported the same story, but identified the dog as a Pit Bull. "A 4 year old boy was fatally mauled by a pit bull Friday night in his Brooklyn home."  The AP will now spread that story far and wide - and the pit bull "breed" will be further defamed.  Send this link out far and wide.

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