Dog's Sad Tale Wends Its Way to 8th Circuit

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018 12:00 am   3 min read

Purebred German Shepherd Bibi will have another day in court.

The story of Bibi, the lost German Shepherd, is heading to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

It’s a tale of a purebred puppy who was lost, found, sterilized and adopted, sparking a legal battle that began last year in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

Bibi’s owner, Darryl Lunon, a Pulaski County dog breeder, planned to use Bibi, who cost $2,300 because of her championship bloodline, as a breeding dog.

But Bibi bolted from Lunon’s backyard on Valentine’s Day 2017 and was picked up by Pulaski County Sanitation & Animal Services and taken to the city of North Little Rock’s animal shelter. The Pulaski County animal officer didn’t scan Bibi for microchips, which would have identified Bibi’s owner, even though scanning is county policy. Bibi also had a number tattooed in her ear that could have been used to reunite Bibi and Lunon, but the agency didn’t do that either.

Lunon searched for Bibi but didn’t know she was in the pound. After her five-day holding period ended, she was spayed and put up for adoption.

More than a month after Bibi escaped, Lunon traced her to the animal shelter. But by then she had new owners.

Lunon sued to get his dog back from the couple that adopted her and won in circuit court in September.

Lunon also amended his complaint to include claims against Pulaski County and North Little Rock for violations of due process of law under the Arkansas and U.S. Constitutions, said his attorney, Kenya Davenport of Little Rock.

She alleged that Pulaski County Sanitation & Animal Services should have followed policy and scanned Bibi for a microchip to help find her owner.

“Our allegation is that Mr. Lunon has a right to his dog, and the county and the city deprived him of his property without providing him notice and an opportunity to be heard before they took his property away,” she said.

The attorney representing the county, Colin Jorgensen of Little Rock, said in his court filing that the failure to scan a stray dog for a microchip or take other steps to find a dog’s owner is “not a violation of the owner’s due-process rights. The County’s (and City’s) failure to scan Bibi for a microchip is unfortunate for all involved — but the failure was not unconstitutional.”

The defendants asked Chief U.S. District Judge Brian S. Miller to declare them victorious in the case before it reached a trial. Miller denied their request.

He wrote in his order that before the government deprives a citizen of his property, the citizen is entitled to be notified and be heard.

“Requiring the defendants to merely scan Bibi’s microchip with the scanner, which the Animal Shelter already owned, and to notify Lunon before it sterilized and adopted out Bibi, would not create a burden,” he said.

Miller also said it wouldn’t have been a burden to look at the identification number on Bibi’s ear and notify Lunon.

“If defendants had complied with the county and city ordinances and shelter policy, Bibi probably would not have been sterilized or adopted before Lunon was given a chance to be heard,” Miller wrote. “Lunon has presented sufficient evidence showing that there is at least material fact as to whether the actual practice of Animal Control and the Animal Shelter complied with the ordinances and policy in place at the time.” The city and county appealed that ruling to the 8th Circuit.

Davenport, Lunon’s attorney, is seeking damages “to fairly compensate him for all the destruction of all his economic value based on the pups that Bibi would have had had she not been sterilized,” she said. The amount could be in the thousands of dollars.

Rebecca F. Wisch, associate editor and staff attorney at the Animal Legal & Historical Center at the Michigan State University College of Law, said there have been cases in which a dog’s breeding potential and stud services have been factored into market-value damages.

“With this sort of dog, it’s actually easier than a dog like mine that is old and deaf and mixed breed and has very little market value,” she said. “It sounds like this dog would have been very expensive to purchase.”



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