This is Stitch and our son Evan. They are best friends. Stitch is a little gentleman, well-behaved, kind and considerate. He loves children, other dogs and even cats, but he especially loves us. He is a light in our lives. And the courts are trying to take him away from us.
This is his story.
In 2007, I was drinking coffee at Starbucks when I met a woman named Cathy, who was looking for a home for her daughter’s dog. Cathy told me that in his first year of life, Stitch had been passed around amongst a group of young kids who were part of the Lindsay Lohan crowd. Cathy’s teenage daughter had ended up with Stitch, but the girl was wild and out of control, partying, disappearing for weeks at a time with her adult boyfriend.
She told us Stitch had been locked in the teen’s room for days without sunshine or exercise, having to relieve himself on the carpet, and that her daughter had taken him to a wild party where he had become so distressed that he jumped through a pane glass window to escape.
We wanted to give Stitch a stable, happy home. We adopted him, microchipped and licensed him and got his necessary shots. We fell completely in love with him.
Soon after, the teenage daughter called our home screaming at us to give her ****ing dog back. We told her that as she was a minor child, we would not be taking any more calls from her. Within an hour, her adult boyfriend began calling our home, harassing us, telling us the dog was his and to return Stitch to him. He filed a police report against us for theft, forcing us to return Stitch to Cathy. In tears and distressed, we brought Stitch to Cathy’s home for what we thought was a few days, until she could get the situation with her daughter straightened out, and call the police off of us. But the girl and her boyfriend took off with Stitch that night, and disappeared.
Two years later, in December of 2009, Stitch was found in the middle of a highway in Nevada city, sick, with a cigarette burn on his neck. Thankfully, because he was microchipped and licensed to us, we were called by Home Again microchip company. We made the ten-hour drive to retrieve him.
Weeks later, the girl’s boyfriend reemerged, demanding Stitch. This time, we weren’t going to be bullied. We told him to show us any proof of ownership, but he had none. We went to L.A County animal services in Chatsworth to ask their advice. They told us that because Stitch was licensed and microchipped to us, we were his legal owners. End of story. We were definitely not letting this guy get away with Stitch a second time, even care if he called the police on us.
Two months later, the guy sued us for more than $25,000, accusing us of intentional infliction of emotional distress on HIM.
Although this young man had no legal documentation, no paperwork of any kind linking him to Stitch, and we had all the legal paperwork and proof, we've still had to defend ourselves in court. For the past two and a half years we have been fighting this with our attorney, specialist in animal rights, Jill Ryther. It has drained our finances, and maxed out our credit. But it was worth it for our little guy, Stitch. He was lucky to be found alive on that highway. We would never, ever let him go again.
In June of last year, after a year of preliminary hearings, and a failed attempt at arbitration, we endured a week of trial in Chatsworth court. The “plaintiff” (the teenaged girl’s boyfriend) admitted on the stand that Stitch had lived with several people, and that sometimes Stitch would run off for a day or two, but he always “figured he’d turn up”. He said Stitch lived on unfenced property at the edge of a forest where he’d sometimes take off chasing wild animals on “bear trails”. Stitch had never been given vaccinations or vet care.
The original owner of Stitch (who had purchased him from the pet store and given him to the teenage girl when he didn’t want to care for him anymore) did not show up at court as he was in rehab. Another of Stitch’s former caretakers showed up looking hollow and disheveled, with a hospital bracelet on his wrist.
The situation Stitch had been in was worse than we’d imagined.
After a week of what everyone thought was a slam dunk case, the unthinkable happened. We lost the trial. Although the judge wrote that “plaintiff’s ownership was far from clear, as he had no real documentation showing he was the owner”, he still ruled on “Lost Property Statute”, equating Stitch to a bicycle or a stereo. Lost property statute does not take into account whether the property was abused or neglected. The "property" simply has to be returned. Our Stitch is not property! (For the full story of the trial, click HERE: http://hollyedexter.blogspot.com/2011/06/when-unthinkable-happens.html)
The plaintiff was not awarded a dime from us. In fact, the judge commended us for taking Stitch in and caring for him, He said we had acted “honorably” and ordered the plaintiff to pay us. But we didn’t want his money. We wanted Stitch safe with us.
We immediately appealed, and also filed a petition for Stitch to stay with us during the appeals process. In appeals, you can no longer argue your case. You have to prove that the judge misused the law. This is a tough thing to do. We must show the court that the “Lost Property Statute” applies to property, not our pets! Stitch is not a bicycle. You can leave a bicycle locked in a hot car without penalty. Our pets are living, breathing beings who deserve to be protected and loved.
We are well into the third year of this fight. Stitch is oblivious to all the drama swirling around him. He’s a happy, healthy little guy who hikes daily, goes with us to tee ball games and is adored by all the neighborhood kids.
On June 7th, 2012 the appeals judge will decide whether Stitch stays with us, or goes back to the guy who lost him FIVE TIMES. Of the original group of kids who once owned Stitch, two have been in rehab, and sadly, one has since died of a drug overdose.
All we want is for Stitch to have a safe life where he is loved and cared for. We know he belongs with us.
Our appeals hearing is set for JUNE 7th, 2012 1:00pm, in downtown Los Angeles appeals court. This is our opportunity to show the courts that we are invested in OVERTURNING this law.
YOU CAN HELP!
1. SPREAD THE WORD in all your animal communities. Share this article, share our website.
2. Come to the hearing on June 7th. If tons of people show up to this hearing, and we get media attention, the court will see that this is a matter of public concern.
HELP US SAVE OUR STITCH- and in return, the law may save your pets one day.