WSVN — Help Me Howards can be unusual, but this one is rare because it involves a stray dog, two possible owners, and finally, a court case to determine who owned the dog. Following it all, Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

For seven years, Emily has had Woofy.

Emily Gray: “He is my love. He makes me feel good every time.”

Just one dog in the family, but occasionally more.

Emily Gray: “I’ve always been the type of person to always pick up the stray dogs, stray cats, bring them home, find a place for them, you know.”

And in December of 2013, Emily saw a dog on the side of the road. She stopped her car.

Emily Gray: “I approached with caution. She came automatically up to me. She was in all sorts of bad conditions. I saw she was friendly.”

Emily took the dog, now named Rosie, to her vet. She was in terrible shape.

Emily Gray: “She looks like she hadn’t eaten a meal in a month. She looked like she was starving, all her ribs were sticking out.”

Not just hungry. Very sick as well.

Emily Gray: “The doctor told me she had a bacterial staph infection covering her entire body, and that was why she had the blisters and the pus and the blood coming out, and her hair falling out as well.”

The vet scanned her. No chip, no collar and no idea who owned her. Emily then began to pay the vet bills that piled up as her illnesses were treated.

Emily Gray: “Two hundred dollars the first visit. Then the second time was another $39 to $50 dollars. To spay her was another $150. They gave me the antibiotics; I didn’t have to pay for them when she got spayed. After that, the next doctor was $150, then the dips I have to do for her is $25 per dip, and I buy them in twos, so it’s $50. She had to do eight treatments of that plus antibiotics, which was another $25, but even with that, I took her to a dermatologist to get a second opinion, and that visit was close to $300. Probably $1,000 with everything included.”

With a special diet and loving, expensive care, Rosie recovered. Then, two months after Emily found the dog, a neighbor saw her walking Rosie.

Emily Gray: “And told me that that was his dog, and I politely told him, ‘No, sorry. She belongs to me.'” And he persisted into following me to my house, and we ended up arguing in my front lawn.”

The teenager left. A few days later, Miami-Dade Police showed up to try to get her to give up the dog.

Emily Gray: “Why was it necessary to have three police vehicles here to try to take this animal from me?”

It’s not clear why three cops would suddenly show up at Emily’s without a court order to seize the dog that was now registered to Emily.

Emily Gray: “I’m not a criminal. I didn’t steal this animal from them. I’m not hurting the animal.”

They left, and the teenager who claimed to own the dog promised to sue to get him back.

Emily Gray: “They claim to have lost the dog the same day I found the dog, December 18, which means this dog was in their house like this.”

Thomas Elfers: “This is an action to replevish for Mr. Reyes, who is trying to recover his dog Sheba.”

In a very unusual court battle over a dog, Andy Reyes said the animal’s name was Sheba. He was sure it was his dog because it had two unique white toenails. But he had no proof he had ever registered the dog, and he said he had never gotten rabies shots for the 7-year-old animal.

Maxine Long: “In the records that have been introduced, they — those records don’t show any rabies vaccinations, do they?”

Andy Reyes: “No, they don’t.”

Emily had to hire an attorney to fight to keep Rosie.

Emily Gray: “And I hope the judge sees this. I’m just praying he is going to rule in my favor.”

Judge Lawrence King listened to both sides.

Judge Lawrence King: “Thank you both very much. We’re on recess at this time.”

A few days later he revealed his decision. He denied Andy Reyes’ request that he be given Rosie, that the dog belonged to Emily.

Emily Gray: “I am tickled pink! Yeah, I got my baby!”

But Emily had to spend $2,500 dollars on her attorney, fighting to keep a dog she spent $1,000 to treat.

Howard Finkelstein: “Emily could get her attorney’s fees paid by the man who sued her if she could show there was absolutely no basis for the lawsuit, but the fellow thought the dog was his. He just didn’t have any proof to back it up, so a judge probably wouldn’t force him to pay her.”

It cost Emily a bundle to keep Rosie, and she says she has no regrets.

Emily Gray: “Would I defend my animal? Absolutely. I would do that again. She is my baby, so yeah, every time. She is great, she is a happy little girl. She is all healthy; no infection, no blisters. Took me all the way to July to get rid of everything. I’m really happy. Rosie is really happy.”

To avoid being sued when you find a stray, take it to the pound and turn it in. Let them know you want it if the owner doesn’t show up. Legally, it’s then yours. However, if it’s sick, that’s risky. They may put it to sleep, so Emily couldn’t take a chance and did the right thing. It just cost her a lot of money.

A problem got you howling? Dont go a-stray. Let us try to get a leash on it. You can trust us. We don’t bite, and we have most of our shots.

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


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