Couple fights mistaken pet adoption

CONYERS - A Newton County couple has taken out a warrant against a Rockdale County woman they claim wrongfully gave away their dogs during a pet-store adoption and won't help get them back.

Tony Terrell said the ordeal began Dec. 8 when Oscar, a Jack Russell terrier, and Dudley, a miniature dachshund, broke out of their fenced-in back yard on Brown Bridge Road and were picked up by an elderly woman.

The woman, after realizing she could not keep the dogs herself, gave them to a pet foster home in Rockdale County. The foster organization then took them to an area pet store on Dec. 13, where they were adopted out separately to two DeKalb County families. Terrell said he and his wife, Kim, eventually learned who had taken the dogs, but have had no luck getting them back.

"We've been running into walls since this started," Terrell said. "We've been calling everybody trying to help us. It ain't like they're $1,000 dogs or rare breeds. One of them is not even full-blooded. We just want our animals back."

The Terrells put up fliers in their neighborhood and have contacted the Animal Control shelters in Rockdale and Newton counties almost every day since Oscar and Dudley went missing. Despite these efforts, the dogs' journey from their Covington backyard to new homes in DeKalb County has been filled with missteps.

The elderly woman who picked up the dogs apparently thought they were strays since they had no identification tags, so she took them in as her own. However, Oscar and Dudley did not get along with her other dogs, so the woman needed to find a new home for them. The woman called Honey Creek Veterinary Clinic and they referred her to Kellie Hunt, who is known to help find homes for unwanted pets.

Hunt said she never asked how the woman got the dogs and believed the woman had done all that could to locate the owners.

"She called me and said she wanted to keep these dogs; she found them, she could not find the owners for them and she couldn't keep the dogs herself, and she did not want them to go to Animal Control where they would be killed," Hunt said Monday.

Animal control officials in both Rockdale and Newton counties said they attempt to adopt out animals they receive only after a waiting period, unless an owner surrenders the animal.

Rockdale County Animal Control waits seven days before attempting to find a new home for an animal. In Newton County, the waiting period is three days.

Hunt took the dogs to Petco, near the Mall at Stonecrest, for adoption.

The adoption program at Petco is a partnership between the store and the Humane Society of Rockdale County Inc., operated by Rockdale County resident Beverly Schaner.

In November, Schaner voluntarily handed over her animal protection license to the state Department of Agriculture due to a zoning dispute between her and Rockdale County over the number of animals she kept at her home.

Schaner explained that the Humane Society of Rockdale County still operates as a charitable organization, but she no longer adopts out animals directly. She said her group works only to connect people who want pets.

Schaner said it is unfortunate that the Terrells' dogs were adopted, but she could not do anything about it.

"I did have a number for one of them, and the people did not want to give it back and I can't make them," Schaner said. "I really didn't have anything to do with it except that I'm a go-between."

The Terrells, however, place the blame on Schaner for adopting the dogs out and operating a pet adoption agency without a state license. The couple filed for a warrant against Schaner in Newton County Probate Court alleging theft by deception. The warrant was sent to the Newton County Sheriff's Office on Monday to be executed, according to Newton County Probate Judge Henry Baker.

Terrell said he and his wife have offered to reimburse the families who unwittingly adopted Oscar and Dudley for the costs incurred as part of the adoption - about $400 according to Schaner - but have been refused.

There was also some confusion over what documentation was available to track down the families. Schaner said that while she does act as a go-between, she does not keep records of the adoptions. Petco, which had a record of one of the dogs being groomed, has declined to give out customer information, according to Schaner.

Terrell said court action was their last resort to get some information on the whereabouts of their dogs.

"We tried to do this without having to go this way, but you can't get anybody to help you," he said. "We've got everybody trying to help us, but until this lady does something and turns over the paperwork, we can't do nothing."

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.