(WSVN) - A police officer gave his son a puppy. A few years later, the Miami-Dade officer was killed while on duty. That dog was a reminder of the boy’s father, until he disappeared, and a rescue group refused to return the animal. Is that legal? It’s tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When you walk into Janenne’s house, the first thing you see is a memorial honoring her husband.

Patrick Fraser: “He was a police officer killed in the line of duty?”

Jannene Howard-Brown: “Yes. I always promised that I would never have anyone forget my husband’s legacy.”

Sgt. Jermaine Brown was a Miami-Dade Police officer killed while chasing drug suspects. But in his home, he lives on.

Jannene Howard-Brown: “Although he’s not physically here, I feel he’s spiritually here.”

The reminders of her husband give Jannene comfort, and this dog, Chaos, brings her son Justice happiness, because Sgt. Brown gave him the dog when he was 6.

Justice Brown: “When I walked in the door, I saw Chaos, and I just broke down in tears.”

Jannene Howard-Brown: “Chaos slowly but surely became my son’s best friend.”

After Sgt. Brown’s death, Jannene felt all the emotions a grieving widow endure. Into her life came Axel.

Jannene Howard-Brown: “After my husband’s passing, I just needed that little comfort. I get emotional, but he was a godsend.”

Two loved pets, helping a mother and son cope with their terrible loss.

And then one day, both animals went into the backyard to run around. The clever Chaos opened a gate, and the dogs disappeared.

Jannene Howard-Brown: “I went everywhere, every, every, everywhere.”

Jannene lives in South Dade. Her family and friends searched neighborhoods and the internet. They contacted every rescue group in Miami-Dade County. Nothing.

Then, a week later, on the internet, someone said they found the dogs.

Jannene Howard-Brown: “And they say, ‘Hey, they’re at a rescue shelter in West Palm Beach, in the Everglades.’ I called. I called, I want to say for – I want to say over a week.”

Jannene still has no idea why someone would take the dogs from South Dade to Everglades Angels Rescue Group. Finally, Jannene says, someone returned her call.

Jannene Howard-Brown: “They said ‘Unfortunately, they gave the dogs to different families,’ and they told me that the families were not willing to give the dogs back.”

Jannene explained that Axel helped her cope with the loss of her fallen husband, and Chaos was given to Justice by his father.

Jannene Howard-Brown: “The dog is a physical reminder to my son of my husband.”

The rescue group said, “Nope. We still aren’t returning your dogs and won’t tell you who has them.” Stunning Jannene.

Jannene Howard-Brown: “I’m just asking, if they could find it in their heart, show some compassion.”

And when they still refused to return the dogs, Jannene turned to Help Me Howard to find out if someone can keep your animals.

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Sometimes, yes. Florida has a law that’s very broad, and if rescue groups follow that law, the new owners can keep the animals, and you have to go to court to try to get them back if they won’t return them.”

I now know how Jannene felt trying to reason with the people who run Everglades Angels Rescue Group.

They said they followed proper procedures before the dogs were adopted.

They first blamed Jannene for leaving the dogs outside. I said it was for a few moments.

They wanted to know why the dogs were not chipped and the name of the dogs’ vet. Jannene provided all that.

For two weeks, I tried to convince them to return the animals. They refused.

Then, we contacted Lauren Peffer, a well-respected attorney who represents pet owners. Lauren said she would help Jannene for free in honor of Sgt. Brown.

I then told the rescue group Lauren was going to court to get the names of the people who had the dogs, and I would go see them to try to reason with them.

Something then changed.

The next day, Jannene got a phone call to come get her dogs in Palm Beach County.

As we went inside a vet’s office, we were worried Jannene’s Axel wouldn’t be there. The night before, the rescue group said the family who had him wanted to buy him from Jannene.

Jannene Howard-Brown: “They offered me $6,000, and they told me that the kids in the family are distraught.”

Jannene’s reply: What about my family?

Jannene Howard-Brown: “Magnify it times 1,000, or a million. That same desperation is what I want my son and I have been going through.”

A few seconds later, relief and joy.

Jannene Howard-Brown: “That’s him, that’s him. Oh, Axel! Oh, it’s Mommy’s baby. Oh, thank you so much.”

Then, Chaos was brought out.

Jannene Howard-Brown: “Chaos. Oh, see?”

Jannene Howard-Brown: “When they first brought him out, they ran to each other because they’ve never been separated.”

And then Justice did something Jannene says he’s not done since his Chaos disappeared.

Justice Howard-Brown: “And I actually smiled. I really love this dog. I can’t lose him again.”

The dogs are home, the family is happy, and Jannene says she is convinced Sgt. Brown is up in heaven smiling too, that his family is all back together again.

Jannene Howard-Brown: “I don’t think, if you guys would have gotten involved, that we would have ever gotten these dogs back. To actually have you guys help us is just a blessing. So for that, we’re forever grateful.”

Thank you, Jannene.

And, as frustrating as Everglades Angels were to deal with, they finally returned the dogs, so give them credit, and thank Lauren Peffer for offering to legally help Jannene, who couldn’t be happier.

Feeling lost? Need to be rescued? Don’t dog it. Unleash us to help.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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