Monday, February 16, 2009
Help Me Howard: Dog Court Battle
Let me ask you a question: If someone gave you a dog, and then three years later was still trying to get you to give it back, what would you say? One South Florida man has said, no, that he loves the dog and won't give him up, and for three years that case has dragged through the courts and now is part of Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you open a pet salon, you know one thing.
Paul Casey: "I love dogs. You have to love dogs to do this, yes."
Paul owns Love Those Pets in Fort Lauderdale, grooming dogs all day.
Paul Casey: "Sometimes it can be pretty stressful, but a lot of times it's fun."
But right now Paul is not having fun.
Paul Casey: "You're gonna be a movie star here."
Three years ago, he says he let a cocker spaniel rescue group use his shop at night to groom their dogs. In return, he says they agreed to pay for the supplies they used, but Paul says, they offered something different.
Paul Casey: "In lieu of the money she owed me, she gave me a couple of dogs. She gave me three."
A few days after that, Paul decided the rescue group could not use his salon anymore.
Paul Casey: "She was mad at me, she was upset with me that I asked her to leave my business."
She left, and in return, Paul got a lawsuit.
Paul Casey: "Sued me for the dogs. She wanted the dogs back."
The rescue group started the court battle over three years ago by claiming Paul took their dogs.
The first time, Paul won.
Paul Casey: "And I was awarded the dogs by Judge Ireland, Kathy Ireland."
During the long court battle, one of the dogs has passed away. Paul gave another back to its original owner, and the third one is Ziggy.
Paul Casey: "He's my life. He's my kid."
After losing in court, the owner of the rescue group sued again. Instead of filing against Paul, suing against his shop.
Paul Casey: "And it goes on and on."
This time, a Broward judge used a technicality and ruled against Paul, giving Cocker Rescue over $1800, forcing Paul to pay for the dog that died two years ago and taking Ziggy away from him and returning him to the rescue group.
Paul Casey: "There is no way I can give him up."
Paul's attorney immediately went to court and filed an appeal. A judge agreed to review the three year old battle and to allow Ziggy to stay with Paul in the meantime.
Patrick Fraser: "What would happen if you had to give up Ziggy?"
Paul Casey: "I can't give Ziggy up. I can't."
Patrick Fraser: "What if the courts tell you to give Ziggy up?"
Paul Casey: "I will go to jail."
But the battle to keep Ziggy has cost Paul thousands, worn him out and frustrated him and left him wondering how can he finally end this case and keep his dog?
Howard Finkelstein: "Some people might look at this case and say it's a waste of the courts' time and one of the reasons the system is so backed up, but I would say anyone who has ever had a dog would understand why both sides are fighting for what they think is their dog."
The rescue group's owner did not return our calls. Her attorney did and released a statement on her behalf saying she does not want this fight in the media, that she is confident she will succeed in court and is only interested in the dog's welfare.
When I asked if taking the dog from its owner for the last three years was good for the animal, he told me his client had only authorized him to release the statement, and now it's in a judge's lap.
Howard Finkelstein: "Basically, this boils down to a he-said/she-said, and even though we have said an oral agreement is just as binding as a written contract, the difference is proving what the oral agreement was can be very difficult. Paul has a witness who saw the group give him the dogs. If he wins his appeal, he needs to get him into court, and he may help prove Ziggy is his."
Paul will head back to court to learn his fate, and in the meantime, he says he has learned a lesson about helping people.
Paul Casey: "I helped her groom dogs, I helped her adopt dogs out. All I tried to do was help this woman, and look what I get in return. It makes me not ever want to help anyone again."
Now, if you are not a dog lover and think this is a waste of the court's time, the three judges who have heard the cases apparently disagree because if they did, they could have thrown it out of court. Next time they are in court, we will be there to see how this thing ends up, if it ever ends.
Troubles dogged you? Need someone to rescue you? Contact us. We'll track down a solution that hopefully won't leave you howling.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)