DENVER (CBS4) – A woman was reunited with her rescued French Bulldog after veterinary procedures the owner and her attorney claim were unwarranted.
The Frenchie named China was one of more than two dozen dogs rescued in July from deplorable conditions at the home of their Denver dog handler.
China’s owner flew in from Chicago and had to fight for weeks to get her back.
Michelle Tippets, a French Bulldog breeder, said she had no idea of the poor conditions she was putting China into when she sent her to live with handler Marleen Puzak.
Animal control officers charged Puzak with 35 counts of animal cruelty and rescued 35 dogs, including China, from her allegedly feces-encrusted home.
“Yeah, I should have done a home check. I didn’t, she was my friend,” Tippets told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.
As soon as Tippets learned of the neglect and rescue, she claimed China as one of her own, she said. By then, however, the shelter had already spayed her, according to city officials.
The shelter requires spaying/neutering of all dogs that come in, per city ordinance.
“They had absolutely no right to spay her. They had no right to touch her nose,” Tippets said of the surgeries performed on China at the shelter.
In a statement, a shelter spokeswoman said “the question of ownership had not come up until well along in the adoption preparation process.”
Jennifer Edwards, attorney and founder of the Animal Law Center, however, disputes the city’s claim.
“Our clients are the victims here,” she said.
Edwards represents four owners of approximately ten dogs who were seized from Puzak’s home, some of whom were show dogs. Show dog requirements include the animal’s having reproductive organs, Edwards explained. She also said the surgery had cut short the dog’s ability to breed.
“I am perplexed as to how Denver (employees) thought they had the legal right to administer drugs that they did…to spay and neuter dogs…these dogs can never compete (in shows) again,” Edwards said.
The shelter charged Tippets $665 to relinquish China to her rightful owner.
“We were pretty much blindsided by the amount of fees that our client Michelle had to pay. I mean, it was more than the adoption amount,” Edwards added. “Marleen (Puzak) should be the one that has to pay. She is the one that was keeping these animals in deplorable conditions. She’s the one that committed animal cruelty.”
A shelter spokeswoman said the fees went towards veterinary and sheltering costs.
Out of the ten rescued French Bulldogs who have been claimed by other owners, the shelter so far has relinquished only China. Officials said the other claimed dogs remained on hold pending ongoing ownership investigation.