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Litigation continues over dog’s fate

A shelter dog named Smiley is at the center of a legal battle between Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation and two former volunteers, Bob Baker and Barbara Moran.

Smiley’s court date is set for Dec. 23 at 9 a.m., at which time Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill may decide the dog’s fate.

Baker and Moran allege that WAIF unfairly denied their offer to adopt Smiley, but shelter officials maintain that the dog is not suitable for adoption because of aggressive behavior.

On Nov. 12, Churchill granted a temporary restraining order, suspending WAIF’s plan to euthanize Smiley.

The judge will be making another important decision on Monday, Dec. 1 at 9:30 a.m.

Adam Karp, a Bellingham animal law attorney representing Baker and Moran, filed a motion to expedite discovery, requiring WAIF to allow access to the dog.

In the motion, Karp asks that “Smiley be produced for inspection, evaluation, and testing, with the assistance of a veterinarian, animal behaviorist, and/or trainer.”

Karp also wants access to WAIF’s correspondence with Baker, Moran and donors; WAIF’s 990 and 990-EZ forms between 2005 and 2008; and “all Dog Tracking and Dog Walking Logs, veterinary records, correspondence, notes, and other documents pertaining to Smiley.”

The DNA testing, which will be taken through a blood sample and cheek swab, will determine Smiley’s “genetic profile” and hopefully solve the dispute over Smiley’s breed. Baker and Moran allege that WAIF is bias against pit bulls and pit bull mix breeds.

But the genetic testing is beside the point, said Stephen Paysse, executive director of WAIF.

“It’s not about Smiley being a pit bull mix, it’s about the behaviors he’s exhibited over time,” he said.

And according to WAIF, if Smiley were to injure another animal or person after his adoption, WAIF would be in the line of legal fire, not Baker or Moran.

While Baker and Moran have offered to sign a release of liability, the document may only protect WAIF against a suit from Smiley’s owners. If the dog were to injure a third party — a child or another animal — WAIF could still be liable for knowingly adopting out an animal with documentation of aggressive behavior, WAIF officials fear.

But Karp said he wishes to review WAIF’s correspondence with his clients in order to prove their allegations that the shelter is acting in a “retaliatory, heedless and unreasoning” manner, he said.

Community Events, April 2014

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