BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - An 8-year-old dog named Sir Duke is at the center of a back and forth battle between the dog’s former owner and the Calhoun County Animal Center, who the owner says gave the dog away, knowing full well that she was the owner.
“I want my dog back,” said Sir Duke’s former owner, Annie Stambaugh.
Stambaugh says on June 27th, Duke, a lab/dalmation mix, is her unofficial therapy dog helping her cope with PTSD.
She says Duke jumped out of her car when she left him in the back seat while running errands, adding that she kept the windows down and a bowl of water in the back for the dog to help him stay cool.
When she returned, Stambaugh says her dog was gone. She later learned animal control picked up Sir Duke and took him to the Calhoun County Animal Center.
According to Stambaugh, she agreed to have the dog microchipped and given necessary shots, but when it came time to pick up Duke, she didn’t have her photo I.D., and was unable to take her dog as a result.
“My wallet had been stolen,” she said in an interview with the Newschannel 3 I-Team.
“It took about a week and a half for me to get my driver’s license straightened out, and then my car broke down so I still couldn’t pick up the dog.”
Workers at Calhoun County Animal Center say they’re only obligated to keep an animal for 7 business days if they know who the owner is, and say when push came to shove, they needed to make room for other dogs.
“Duke has been sent to a rescue group,” said Animal Control Officer Eden Ross, who spoke to Newschannel 3’s I-Team after several workers at the Animal Center declined to speak on camera.
“It is my understanding they worked with the animal owner to try and keep the dog as long as possible,” she added, emphasizing the shelter kept Duke for a total of 25 days, almost 3 times longer than it had to.
Stambaugh says despite the claims made by the animal center, she was never given a warning that Duke would be sent away.
Making matters worse, she said workers at the animal center said she wouldn’t be getting her dog back.
“I asked where the shelter was so I could get him back, and they refused,” she said. “She says ‘I’m sorry, we can’t give you that information,’” she added.
When the I-Team asked several workers at the animal center about the whereabouts of the dog, those workers declined to comment, insisting they were trying to prevent Stambaugh from trying to pester the rescue shelter where they sent the dog.
A Freedom Of Information Act request concerning the dog’s whereabouts was denied, due in part, because the Calhoun County Animal Center is not operated by the county government, but rather, is a private non-profit not subject to FOIA laws.
One of the workers said Duke was unusually skinny when he arrived at the shelter, and had a skin condition, although that worker also acknowledged Duke’s owner stopped by provide Duke antibiotics for the problem.
That worker also said there’s little if any chance Duke’s former owner would be able to get him back, expressing concern for the welfare of the animal.
Stambaugh however, claims her dog always loses weight during the summer, and is fed multiple times throughout the day.
“If they’re concerned about his well-being, they can come check him out any time they want when he comes back to me, I have nothing to hide, I just want my dog back,” she said.
Stambaugh insists she’s still looking for Duke, and not ruling out getting obtaining legal counsel to try and get her dog back.