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Dog will not be returned to area family

Organization explains position

Managing editor

Volunteers are being threatened and spokeswoman Laura Zang, of Golden Retriever Freedom Rescue of Denver, Colo., wants people to hear all the facts.

The Marion County Record was contacted Friday after the rescue organization was named in a story about the Brad and Jane Wiens family of rural Hillsboro and their dog, Lacey. The Wienses were desperately trying to convince the organization to release the dog to them, specifically for their teenage son, Sheldon, who has autism.

Golden Retriever Freedom Rescue has decided not to release the dog to the Hillsboro family and wanted to explain why.

The organization “has tried to stay quiet on this issue,” Zang said in a written statement. “We normally do not share private information about our dogs, the families we work with, or our shelter partners with third parties.”

The Record had reported in the Nov. 24 edition that the 7-year-old golden retriever had wandered from the family’s property east of Hillsboro and was picked up in September in Harvey County by Caring Hands Humane Society of Newton. The dog was not claimed within three days and, by state law, became the property of the animal shelter.

“Had GRFR not stepped up and brought the dog to Colorado, she would have been euthanized Sept. 24,” Zang said in a statement. “About this there can be no argument.”

The mission of Golden Retriever Freedom Rescue is to rescue, foster, rehabilitate, and adopt abused, neglected, and unwanted golden retrievers to permanent homes.

According to the rescue organization, the dog disappeared Sept. 7, but the Wiens family waited a week before they began a search to find her.

The organization’s position is that the family did not exhibit responsible and compassionate care or concern for the dog. Newton shelter records showed another dog owned by the Wienses was picked up by the Newton shelter in 2002 from the same location on 170th Road near Walton.

“That’s not true,” Jane Wiens said after hearing the accusation. “It was a basset hound that a motorist picked up on Kanza Road (east of Hillsboro) which is where we live.”

The elderly woman took the dog to the Newton shelter. When Wiens considered confronting the woman to ask why she picked up the family dog near their home, Wiens said she took pity on the woman and did not confront her as planned.

When the Wiens family contacted the Newton shelter, there was a family lined up to adopt the basset hound but the shelter returned the dog to the Wienses.

The organization’s written statement indicated it was a similar situation of the Wienses’ dog Lacey leaving the home and being picked up by authorities.

“Reason would dictate that this would be one of the first phone calls the family would make, yet the shelter was not contacted until Oct. 19,” Zang said in the statement.

When the dog was picked up in Harvey County, it had no collar or tags and did not have a microchip. Therefore, the shelter had no way to know who owned the dog.

Caring Hands made the decision to euthanize the dog Sept. 24, following the mandatory three-day holding period, because the dog had tested positive for advanced heartworm.

The Colorado rescue organization was contacted and acquired Lacey Sept. 20, renaming her Lucille. On Sept. 24, a veterinarian examined the dog. Three days later, she was treated for heartworm, tapeworms, a severe bladder infection, and painful advanced ear infections,” Zang said.

“Through medical treatment and diagnosis, there is no doubt that this dog was infected with — often fatal — heartworm prior to Sept. 7,” Zang said.

The combination of conditions caused the dog to be incontinent.

Wiens said the Caring Hands report did not mention that Lacey was starving or had become dehydrated.

The dog was placed in a foster home, prior to the organization’s knowledge of an ownership claim and is doing well.

The retriever was spayed in December. Prior to surgery, diagnostic testing was performed to determine the cause of incontinence. The dog was found to have a diseased spleen. The spleen and uterus were removed.

“The vet discovered that her uterus was not healthy … had the spleen not been removed, the disease would have caused a rupture within a matter of months, causing death in less than an hour,” Zang said. “It is our hope the incontinence will improve now that she is spayed.”

Zang continued that the organization had been accused of not understanding farm dogs and Kansas.

“This is absolutely not true,” she said. “We routinely adopt dogs to people with farms and ranches, and enjoy longstanding relationship with several shelters in the Midwest.”

The organization’s policy requires dogs be supervised and not left free to roam.

“Dogs that are allowed to roam in the countryside can become lost, place a burden on local officials, and contribute to the pet overpopulation problem, or the spread of disease,” Zang said. “If allowed to roam, at minimum, these dogs should have identification and basic vaccinations as required by law in most jurisdictions. The Wienses’ dog apparently had neither.”

If the dog becomes injured, there’s no way to contact the owner. The organization routinely rescues dogs with serious injuries that are a direct result of roaming.

Zang said the organization had received e-mails from people who believed the organization was hostile to those with autism.

“In fact, having a child or other family member with special needs has never been a basis to reject an application,” she said. “Several families who have adopted their dogs from GRFR have family members with special needs, including autism.”

In the end, the board of directors stands by their decision to maintain what is in the best interest of the dog.

“Therefore, Lucille (Lacey) will remain in Colorado to complete medical treatment, recovery, and be adopted to a family that will be prepared and committed to provide for her special needs.”

Zang said the organization appreciated the interest people have had in the dog but the decision was not going to be changed.

It’s not an easy decision for Wiens to accept but unless there’s some other type of intervention — an attorney willing to take the case pro bono, for example — Lacey won’t return home.

“You have decide to make lemonade out of lemons,” Wiens said.

She said her family, like others, has had its share of struggles but believes some good will come from this experience.

“I can stand firm in how we cared for our dog in a rural setting,” Wiens said. “When a child is in child welfare, there is always a way to get a child back home. Apparently you cannot even do that with a dog.”

She continued the organization could have made an arrangement with a local veterinarian to periodically check Lacey.

“I feel sorry for them (members of the rescue organization). I feel they are missing out on the best thing in life,” Wiens said, “in seeing the joy in a boy’s eyes in the return of his dog.”

Last modified Jan. 6, 2011

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