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Life’s Lessons – In Oregon, It Is Not Illegal to Steal Dogs

I don’t remember recording this video. I came across it a few days ago and finally made the decision to share this story. The voice in the recording is of a man in possession of two of my dogs; he wanted to buy them, and I did not want to sell them. This happened on the morning of January 16, 2023.

I pulled off of his property and phoned someone who used to be a mutual friend. I asked her to help me get my dogs back; she thanked me for letting her know.

I then phoned 911, and asked the operator to assist me in getting my dogs back. It became clear that these two people, both retired police officers, knew what I did not. The operator told me that if this man had stolen a bicycle, for instance, that would be considered theft, and theft is against the law. But dogs are not considered property. So she could not help me, and that in order to get my dogs back, I would need to go to court. I drove the 3 ½ hours home – without my dogs, dogs I would never see again.

The following morning, I met with a local sheriff’s deputy. He asked that I meet him, of all places, at Raineys Market, a place I have taken puppies for training more than a hundred times. Irony. He told me that the man in possession of my dogs planned to sue me. For what? I asked. He told me the man was arrogant, that he wanted me to sell him my dogs, and that people can take people to court for anything. He asked me why I wasn’t willing to sell my dogs to this man.

I told this very compassionate officer about the plight of LGDs in this country and how often they fail because of mishandling. He glanced at the back of his vehicle and shared with me that he had been a canine handler for twenty-four years; he said that happens with Malinois frequently, and that he had never encountered a breeder who would go to the lengths I do to protect their pups. I am glad I met him.

I went home and contacted my attorney. He let me know that it could cost me $10,000 to fight this man in court, that it could take more than a year, that the man would have my dogs during this time, and that I could lose. He told me that ultimately it could be a judge, someone completely unfamiliar with LGDs, that would decide if the dogs were in a good home.

I had no idea. I own these dogs. That fact was never disputed. But this case would go to court in the county where these individuals had worked. It might cost me $10K to fight for my dogs, but in all probability, favors would be called in for the other party.

And what would become of my dogs? Even if I won, how would I get my dogs back? Would a deputy, in that same county, accompany me to repossess my dogs? I don’t see that working out well. I also don’t believe this man would give up the dogs; they could have died, they could have run away the day before, etc. And if my dogs had been in this home for a year how fair would it be to them for me to move them once more? No. My job is to advocate for my dogs; fighting for them might place them in harm’s way even more than they are now.

And what of these dogs? For one of them, this was her fifth placement. Each time previously, she had become unhappy, and the people she was with loved her enough to listen to her and she came back to me. That won’t happen this time. The dog I placed there with her is young. He has proven too bouncy for her; she yips when he body-slams her. Kept alone, he chases the goats. Keep in mind that all this is new behavior because the dogs had only been in this home for a month. This man has three companion dogs; he uses shock collars on two of them, telling me that is necessary to control them.

I am afraid for both of my dogs. It breaks my heart that I have placed them in this situation. And I am astounded to learn how few rights dogs have – at least in Oregon. So scary. In my situation, no contract had been signed, no money changed hands, and no promise was made to sell my dogs to this man.

The end of the story is that I asked my attorney to send a demand for payment. This had been the goal of this man, and his friend, from the beginning. He paid me for the dogs. My task is to learn to live with this, the loss I feel, the betrayal, and the guilt of not still having the dogs safely here.

Be careful out there. If you loan someone a dog, you may never see it again unless you are willing and able to take on an ugly battle. If you have sold a dog on a contract to attempt to enforce that contract, you may find yourself in this same position. Remember, there was never any he said-she said about who actually owned my dogs. Contracts can be more ambiguous in their enforcement.

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