Written by Phil Cerroni
By Phil Cerroni
Many times heroic people are pitted against each other. Although they have the same goals, passions and loves, a chance occurrence turns them into mortal enemies. This was the case with a fight that raged from Irving to Florida to the World Wide Web. Did I mention all of this was over a dog?
It began in June when, a stray Chihuahua was brought to the Irving Animal Care Campus where she was taken in and named Flower.
Flower’s owner never came for her, and she wasted away in the shelter, refusing to eat and becoming very sick. This continued until an initiative run by shelter volunteers took an interest in the dog.
“They see where an animal is in need of an adoption; they do glamour shots of the animals; they post the picture to Facebook; they send out a Facebook blast across the nation,” said Teresa Adrian, Director of Code Enforcement for the City of Irving. “That’s their rescue efforts, and they do a wonderful job of that. The Facebook volunteers are not in control of the adoption process itself. They’re just out there getting the word out.”
It was not long before Michelle Clark, a pet owner in Florida found the pictures of Flower, decided she wanted to adopt the dog and was approved by Animal Services on June 28. Then, with the help of her friends, Clark raised enough money to transport Flower to Florida However, because Flower was not eating and becoming progressively weaker she was not able to travel.
Animal Services finally attributed Flower’s lack of appetite to her bad teeth, and Clark offered to have the work done in Florida at her own expense if they would just send the dog earlier. The decision was made, however, to have the work done in Texas, and some of the transportation money Clark and her friends had raised was used for Flower’s oral surgery.
When Flower first came to the shelter, she was skittish and was not friendly with most people, but one woman developed an affinity for the animal.
“One of the volunteers, Jennifer Thompson started taking an interest in the dog. She started saying she really needed to take it home, foster it, help it get better and maybe take it to get its dental work done, which she probably needed,” said Darrel Hammond, Code Enforcement Manager for Irving.
Two weeks after Clark was put in the system as Flower’s new owner, Thompson took the dog in to foster care, and her loving care of Flower was instrumental in nursing the animal back to health.
“We will admit the people at the shelter told us the dog probably wouldn’t have lived if she hadn’t taken it,” said Hammond.
As the days progressed, Flower began to grow stronger, and Thompson, after falling in love with her, applied to adopt and was approved on July 20.
This created a difficult situation for Animal Services. Although Flower had already been adopted by Clark, there was a precedent for letting fosters keep animals.
“This is an unusual circumstance. We have not had a lot of circumstances like this, in fact I am not aware of any other situation where this has happened,” Adrian commented. “If they [Animal Services] have a person providing foster care to an animal, they typically allow that person to adopt the animal because they’ve had an opportunity to bond with the animal through the fostering. What is unusual about this situation however is that the animal had already been adopted or authorized to be adopted by the lady in Florida, to the point where she received a notification a week prior to the volunteer who had offered to adopt this animal, received a notification from us congratulating her on the adoption and asking her to fill out a survey.”
Clark, having been told that Flower would have dental work one and then be able to travel was beginning to become a bit worried when the dog was not being sent to her.
“This lady in Florida started bombarding them with calls and emails, ‘What’s going on, it’s been six weeks; the dog should be perfectly fine to travel’, yet she kept being put off and eventually when she was told that the foster lady was keeping the dog, well she really became upset then.” Hammond said.
“We believe the foster lady kept it a while, fell in love with it, which fosters generally don’t do, aren’t supposed to do,” Hammond said. “They’re fostering it until it goes to the home. She took the dog with that understanding. But she probably told people at the shelter, continued to tell them it wasn’t able to travel, and she needed to keep it to take care of it.”
At this point Teresa Adrian had to make a difficult decision, whether to give the dog to Thompson who was a dedicated, local volunteer or to honor their agreement with Clark. She decided to give Flower to Clark.
“I made the decision based on all of the information that I had from City staff, some of the feedback I got from some of the volunteers and feedback I got from the woman who ultimately got Flower,” Adrian said.
What followed was a vicious custody battle.
One of the skirmishes occurred when some of the shelter volunteers ran a background check on Clark and claimed it contained information stating she was unfit.
“We’re not even sure yet who did it. We’re confident it wasn’t our staff, however we’re still investigating that,” Hammond said. “However these volunteers we partner with have access to the pet point system [software where they keep track of the adoptions and the intakes, approve rescue groups and foster care].”
Although Irving does not have a rigorous vetting process for adoptions, both Adrian and Hammond stressed this is not a problem, and the City responsibly chooses who they approve for adoption.
“Based on the information there was no reason to believe there were any concerns with this person adopting this animal,” Adrian said firmly. “There are some other circumstances that I would really prefer not to comment on right now, because there’s a lot of ‘he said, she said’ between the adopter and the volunteers. We are currently looking through all of those comments and seeing if we can make some sense out of some of the concerns that arose between the volunteer and the adopter.”
“We’re trying to get dogs out of the shelter, so they’re not euthanized, therefore, most anybody who expresses an interest that wants to adopt a dog can pay the adoption fee,” continued Hammond. “We don’t go out, inspect their homes, see if they have a clean house, or if they’re a hoarder. At no time and in no city that I know of, do they do a criminal background check on somebody to see if adopters are fit.
“Evidently some of the volunteer partners of the foster did a background check, and supposedly the woman had some tax is
Another measure taken by Thompson was to post a petition asking the City of Irving to reverse its decision.
The City has not done so.
“Basically this was a stray animal that came into our shelter and was up for adoption and it was adopted out,” stated Adrian. “The animal is in a good environment as far as we can see. Unfortunately, there was a situation where this dog was promised to two different people, and we allowed this animal to be adopted by the one who it had originally been promised to.”
Flower was finally taken to Florida where Clark greeted her at the airport with flyers and balloons, and everything seems to be going quite well for the Chihuahua in her new home.
“The photos that have been sent show she has a clean beautiful home. The dog is well cared for, looks healthy as can be, looks active, isn’t withdrawn – there’s nothing to indicate there’s anything wrong with the woman,” Hammond said.
Not everything is perfectly mended back here in Irving, though.
“The volunteer has expressed an interest in not continuing their volunteer service, however, they are continuing to request that the decision that was made be reversed,” Adrian said sadly.
Hammond summed up the whole regrettable ordeal and the misunderstandings when he said:
“These people are real emotional who get involved with dogs. I think basically the foster woman took the dog knowing she was fostering it, it was already promised to be adopted. That’s the normal case, foster people don’t normally keep the dog. I think she fell in love with it. She did take good care of it, its health improved, and she decided she wanted to keep it.”