By Melissa Garcia

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.

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(credit: CBS)

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.

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Marleen Elizabeth Puzak (credit: Denver Police)

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.

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Michelle Tippets (credit: CBS)

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.

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(credit: CBS)

“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.

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Jennifer Edwards (credit: CBS)

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.

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(credit: CBS)

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.

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(credit: CBS)

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.

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to

Comments (4)
  1. Ownership rights, with a seizure from a dog handler who obviously has other peoples’ show dogs, should be respected. The excuse of that so-called law requiring spay/neuter is total B.S., and I would hope that the seizing and neutering agency would have to pay out $$$$ to owners for destroying the value of their dogs. This is mainly a result of the anti-breeder mentality that has pervaded much of society. I suspect it was known these were show dogs, and the decision to neuter them was done with self-righteous judgment against purebreds. There have been other instances where other-owned dogs in such seizures were NOT neutered until disposition and ownership determination were complete.

  2. If this breeder was so concerned about the “champion’s” welfare, why would she have sold/given a puppy to someone without doing a full background/home check. It is disgusting to me that she NOW wants someone to pay! Absolutely, the woman whom she sold the puppy to is responsible but criticizing the caring agency that took care of these poor babies while everyone else was cashing checks is ridiculous. Hero’s to those employees and volunteers in the shelter for all that you do (including spaying all pets that end up with you). You are heroes here not villians. Our country euthanizes millions of unwanted and unloved animals every year. Shame on us for allowing this to happen and not being more responsible with the care of our animals. I personally hope that the AKC removes the breeder’s license for neglecting her responsibility as a breeder. #disgustedbyirresponsiblebreeders , #profitingfromtheneglectofanimals , #shameonyou !

    1. You are confused Tammy. This dog was NEVER sold to this woman. The dog was sent for a temporary time , like being boarded and a service paid for showing the dog in a different state. We send our dogs to our friends, and trusted ‘handlers’ to have new Judges look at the dog. It takes several Judges to get a Championship. This woman was a friend of the breeder, but she didn’t know that her house was disorderly. HOWEVER.. where is the proof of this deplorable conditions ? Just because they say there is a mess or smell doesn’t mean there was. She could have been over her numbers of dogs, and a noise complaint could have gotten her unwanted attention.. People can be in trouble for spilled food if a dog tips a bowl.. or if a dog pooped the crate over night and a surprise visit by AC see’s that. For the fact that the AC didn’t even bother trying to find the owners of these animals is incorrigible. #Jumpingtoconclusions #DoesntUnderstandDogshowing #AKCisaPaperregistryNOTPOLICE

  3. Why sort of responsible pet owner, let alone “breeder” would send their dog to someone else’s home to stay, sight unseen?

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