Runaway dog taken back by adoption agency

Vashon Island Pet Protectors said Henry is “safe and receiving the specific care that he needs.”

Henry, a 4-year-old Australian shepherd-sheltie mix, was rescued from a hoarding situation in California. He was feral and not comfortable with human contact.

Islander Karin Debelius, who adopted the dog last October, said she had been making strides in his rehabilitation when he got loose and jumped from her car a month later. That set off an 88-day long search and rescue mission to safely capture him, led by volunteers and Vashon Island Pet Protectors (VIPP). But now the dog has been taken back by the agency that originally put him up for adoption.

“What a mess,” said Debelius, “and I’ve lost my dog.”

VIPP took Henry into temporary foster care with Debelius’ permission after his successful capture in the early morning hours of Feb. 16. According to Debelius, her cooperation with VIPP at that time was reluctant — she said she wanted Henry returned, but VIPP had implemented a care plan that kept the dog in the home of a volunteer while she was recovering from surgery.

One week after Henry was captured, Debelius received an email from Collar of Hope, the adoption agency that had placed Henry with her, explaining that she was no longer the legal owner of the dog.

In the email, which Debelius provided to The Beachcomber, Director Teresa McMurrin stated that Henry’s escape was one basis for the agency’s decision to recall the dog, as well as his “status as an extreme flight risk” and “need of significant behavioral rehabilitation and strict care management.” She referred to their original adoption contract as justification for the action to take back legal custody of Henry.

“We have a responsibility to Henry and a liability should he escape again,” wrote McMurrin.

Debelius said she initially waited several days to inform Collar of Hope that Henry had escaped, concerned about possible repercussions. Once they were alerted, the agency connected her and VIPP with Henry’s previous fosterer of five months so they could obtain relevant information about his behavior that would aid efforts to capture him. But according to Debelius, once the dog was trapped by VIPP and temporarily sheltered with volunteers, a clause in her adoption contract with Collar of Hope was indirectly violated.

The adoption contract specified that if the dog was “seen on any venue to be rehomed” or given to another home without the consent of Collar of Hope, he would be retrieved by the agency.

“They interpreted him being cared for by VIPP volunteers while I was recuperating from surgery as rehoming him supposedly,” said Debelius.

McMurrin wrote that Collar of Hope originally expressed to Debelius that the dog may not be ready for adoption due to his history, though Debelius said they ultimately let her adopt him anyway.

McMurrin could not be reached for further comment.

In a statement, VIPP president Geoff Fletcher said Henry is “safe and receiving the specific care that he needs.” He and Amy Carey of VIPP declined to comment for this story.

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