California man fights to get his dog back

 A California man, Paul, is fighting to get his dog Stormie back after she went missing in late February 2020.  Two rescues however, are now claiming ownership of Stormie. Now, Paul and his dog are caught in the middle of a legal battle which will may eventually its way to court.

It all started when Paul was in the process of moving out of his mobile home in Yucaipa, California. Stormie, along with two other small dogs escaped. The two smaller dogs returned home, but Stormie did not. Paul began asking around the trailer park if anyone had seen Stormie but no one had.

On the second day he started calling the shelters, but none had a dog matching her description.

On March 8, 2020 Paul made a report with the Yucaipa police for a missing dog under case number YC200680036 when a friend of Paul’s told him she saw Stormie being taken into a car near a local 7-11 store. While Paul was calling shelters, asking neighbors, and filing a missing dog report with the local police and Paw Boost, Stormie was sitting at the Devore shelter in San Bernardino county brought in as a stray. Her kennel card indicated she was brought in on February 28, 2020 and her stray hold would be up on March 12, 2020

When no one came for her, she was on the euthanasia list to be killed on March 12, 2020.

Stefani Rizzo of Miracle Foundation SD made the commitment to take Stormie into her rescue but was not on the list of rescues authorized to pull from Devore. Her partner, who had pull rights at the shelter was out of the country so could not do it.

Terri McCabe of Pawsitive Tails to Remember Inc. a Colorado based rescue, had pull rights at Devore and offered to pull Stormie for Stefani as a rescue to rescue transfer. So, to everyone’s relief, Stormie escaped death at the shelter and was transported to a temporary foster under Rescue Miracle SD’s care.

Bryan Keeling, a Nebraska resident, was interested in adopting Stormie. He had actively networked her on his Facebook page. He filled out an application for adoption with Stefani, but she could not approve it because she felt it would be risky sending the dog out of state to Nebraska, and also, Stormie was a jumper and would be a flight risk since Bryan only had a four-foot-high fence around his yard. So, Bryan approached Terri McCabe for help since she was the rescue that initially pulled Stormie.

Terri and Stefani had never spoken since Stormie was pulled and in Stefani’s custody since March 14, 2020. However, in early May, she claimed her rescue still had ownership of Stormie since the transfer papers were never done.

Then things got even stranger. The woman who was fostering Stormie had a dispute with Stefani and handed Stormie back over to her. Stormie was now living in Stefani’s home. One day, someone broke in and stole Stormie in a staged burglary and took her to Bonita Shelter in San Diego County.

In the interim, a friend of Stormie’s family saw her post and contacted Paul who contacted Stefani Rizo to get Stormie back. When they heard she was at the Bonita Shelter, Paul called stating he was the original owner. He was told to bring in the original paperwork to provide verification of ownership.

Paul drove several hours to get to the shelter before they closed that day, thinking he was going to bring his dog home. He provided them with vet records and documentation showing proof that he was the original owner.  An appointment was made for him and Stefani Rizo to meet at the shelter the following morning to pick Stormie up.

The shelter called early the next day and cancelled that appointment. Later it was found out that the shelter was holding Stormie on a 10-day chip hold because she was pulled by Pawsitive Tails to Remember from the Devore Animal Shelter, and her microchip shows them as the current owner. Pawsitive Tails must relinquish their rights for Stormie first before Paul can take her home.

So, now there are four people wanting ownership of Stormie. Paul, her owner of 8+ years, Stefani who claims she is the rescue that pulled Stormie, Bryan, who wants to adopt Stormie and Terri whose rescue pulled the dog from Devore.

Each party has their own argument as to why Stormie belongs to them. Paul because he has vet documents, licensing documents, microchip documents photos, and eyewitnesses that Stormie has belonged to him since she was a puppy. Devore’s kennel card has animal ID and microchip number that matches Paul’s licensing records with San Bernardino County.

Also, on the Faces of Devore Shelter Networking page, it says they do have owner information but if owner does not come forward, she will have to go to rescue only due to a medical condition of carnassial tooth abscess.

Paul provided physical documentation to corroborate his ownership of Stormie including vet records from Green Valley Veterinary Clinic in Yucaipa, documentation of licensing by San Bernardino County Animal Control, and a microchip registered with Home Again under his and his son’s name. He has also provided countless photos of Stormie with his family in all stages of her life.

Stefani has proof her rescue was responsible for saving Stormie through pledge money sent to her rescue on behalf of Stormie, a temporary foster who took Stormie in, a screenshot of a Facebook thread stating “Stormie has been rescued, thank you to Miracle Foundation SD for rescuing her.” She also has an order of protection from the court stating Stormie is the property of her rescue and she is to remain in Stefani’s possession. The order of protection is to be made permanent on August 7, 2020.

Stefani wants Stormie back in her rescue’s possession so she can return the dog to Paul.

Terri had the dog microchipped to her rescue showing possession. She also had a receipt from San Bernardino County Animal Control listing her as the rescue on March 14, 2020. Terri has also filed a police report under case number 20025363 stating Stefani is withholding the dog from Terri whose rescue is the rightful owner.

In the midst of all this is a heartbroken dog owner who wants to get his dog back.

Terri McCabe and Bryan Keeling argue that Paul relinquished his legal rights to Stormie because he did not claim her from the shelter during the time allotted. The shelter claims they notified him by phone and mail, but neither was responded to. Paul claims he never received any notification from Devore. Paul’s phone had been disconnected for a year prior, and he did not receive a mailed notice.

Due to the Covid outbreak he was not allowed to go into the shelters in person to identify his dog. When he called on the phone, he gave her correct breed description, but the shelter listed her as another breed. Stormie was not correctly identified.

Because of all the legal paperwork, mudslinging and threats on social media, Stormie was once again relocated to another shelter in Carlsbad, California and given a new identification number.

Everyone involved believes they want/know what is best for Stormie.  Meanwhile, as the case goes through the long and drawn out legal system, a senior dog has been locked up in a concrete cell for over three months wondering why her family is not coming for her. She has no idea why she is there.

The longer she stays in the shelter,  she will suffer long-term effects on her physical and mental well-being. A shelter is a scary place for a dog, and they are so much more susceptible to illnesses in the shelter environment.

Terri McCabe of Pawsitive Tails to Remember, can allow Paul to take Stormie back by allowing her to be released from the Carlsbad Shelter and returned to her family, the only family she has ever known. However, she electing to instead pursue the case through the legal channels to maintain ownership believing it is better for Stormie to stay with them.

There is an old story translated into many different languages of two women who claimed that a certain baby belonged to them. They went in front of a judge pleading their case as the rightful parent. The judge demanded a chalk circle be drawn on the ground and the baby placed in the middle. Each mother would take hold of one of the baby’s arms and pull. Who ever pulled the baby to her first was the rightful parent. The one mother was ready to start pulling but the other refused saying she would rather the other woman take the baby than inflict such pain and suffering on him. The judge deemed her the real mother because she had genuine compassion and care for the well-being of the baby and refused to hurt him.

We can only hope in the case of Stormie that compassion for the dog will overrule what is considered legal or illegal as to how the dog was obtained.

Terri McCabe and Bryan Keeling were contacted for their statements on the case but declined interviews at the advice of their attorney.

There is a petition to unite Stormie with Paul

Paul has created a video about Stormie and her family. You can watch it here

Follow the National Pet Rescue on Facebook for the latest animal related news.

Peace, Love, Dogs

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